More must be done to improve childcare

MEN 26.3Here’s an article that I wrote for the Manchester Evening News, published on 26 March 2014. I’ve copied in the text below in case you struggle to read the text in the image.

Keep the Help Coming with Childcare Fees

Owning and operating a day nursery puts me in an unusual position from a business perspective of having customers who, on the one hand, trust us completely and on the other, resent us rather a lot for taking the equivalent of a second mortgage from their bank account every month.

So, the announcement that the government will give up to £2,000 per child, per year, to help with childcare costs is welcome I’m sure, to not only parents, but to childcare providers who have found themselves at the sharp end of much criticism regarding nursery fees.

The reality is that what it costs to provide good quality childcare and what parents can afford to pay has widened substantially in the past few years. The findings from the Daycare Trust show a rise in costs of childcare more than double the rate of inflation, putting childcare in the bracket of luxury rather than necessity for many families.

However, it is obvious to anyone working in the childcare sector that the gap has also widened in what parents should expect from a good nursery. From September 2012 there has been a revised early years framework providers must deliver across nurseries and early years settings and then a further revised inspection framework from Ofsted in November 2013, with tougher inspection guidance and standards.

For any childcare provider who wants to either keep up with this or excel in their profession, of course this has an impact on cost.

At The Village Nursery, we were awarded an outstanding in all areas from Ofsted at our last inspection. The cost in terms of investment in training and development, qualifications, recruitment, time and leadership was substantial, but worth every penny.

Every single child who attends our nursery sees the benefit of this and our families see the progress their child makes in their learning and development and how well they are cared for. So whilst this financial help is welcome, it is one small element of a much wider debate about the impact of quality childcare, what it costs, who should pay for it and the sustainability of driving up quality whilst wages in the sector remain low.

There is already wide research about the positive effects of high quality childcare on children’s learning and life chances, so this drive for continuous improvement is a positive and welcome move, but it simply cannot be achieved long term without substantial investment in the childcare workforce.

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