Sheffield nursery boss joins other childcare providers to question the government over early years funding
The boss of a Sheffield nursery has joined other childcare providers to question the government on funding for early years education and care.
As the UK gears up for the general election on December 12, and with seven manifesto pledges circulating, a small group of around 200 independent childcare providers has come forward to query the government’s ‘free’ childcare offer and are heading up a campaign to challenge the quality of it.
The group outlined its concerns in a 600-word open letter to parents and carers with young children which group coordinator Tom Shea says ‘debunks’ the free childcare offer from the government, a subsidy that “doesn’t meet the cost of quality staff, or any of the extras provided”.
Dr Sipra Deb, who is managing director of both Seeds to Stars Nursery, in Sheffield, as well as Wickersley Nursery, in Rotherham, signed and supported the letter.
She said: “I think it’s time the government, parents and voters understand the position that nursery owners such as myself find ourselves in. The branding of “free childcare” has had a massive impact on providers such as myself.
“The past 12 months has seen a massive number of closures primarily due to the businesses not being viable. Nursery owners such as myself find ourselves on the firing line when parents expect is to deliver quality childcare with all that it encompasses on rates under £4 per hour. How is that possible?
“We are not exempt from business rates, the national minimum wage means that we cannot recruit into the sector and give employees the rewards they justly deserve. Most nursery owners are supplementing all the children in their nurseries because they don’t want children to go without, but for how long?
“The promises being branded around by political parties are just not feasible and we should not be used as pawns to get votes. When a dedicated qualified graduate in childcare prefers to walk dogs or work in a supermarket as they cannot afford to live otherwise, it’s time to recognise this and do something. The children we look after today are the stars of the future, how can we compromise their care in this way and devalue the jobs we do?”
According to the latest Ofsted figures, over 500 nurseries and childminders closed every month between April 2018 and March 2019.
Campaigning for transparency, Mr Shea hopes that the group’s efforts will make parents realise the challenges nurseries face.
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