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30 Hours Free Childcare – How Am I Supposed To Continue Offering Great Care With Less Funding?

"When I left the legal profession for a career in early years my parting gift was a home PC and printer and an open invitation to return whenever I came to my senses"

  • 30 Hours Free Childcare – How Am I Supposed To Continue Offering Great Care With Less Funding?

Right from the start of my early years career I knew I’d never earn enough money to make the transition from the legal profession a financially seamless one.

I was worried, my husband was worried and my boss thought I must surely have lost my mind.

Still, derision and disquietude aside, my parting gift was a chunk of money to sustain me in the early months of self-employment, a home PC and printer and an open invitation to return whenever I came to my senses.

A handful of colleagues knew it was right for me: knew how tortured I was coming into the office every day since I’d returned from a very short maternity leave: knew how enthusiastic I was about the chopsticks, clay and cardboard tube activity my son and I were going to do when we got home. They knew it was right for me.

So in May 2004 I bit the bullet and left: found myself “between jobs” for the first time since leaving college.

I loved my time at home with my 4 year old, spending my evenings doing freelance legal work while he was tucked up in bed, and the mornings volunteering in his nursery.

By August I was registered with Ofsted and by September I had all my places filled.

The only thing I regretted (and still do) is waiting until my son started school rather than doing it as soon as I was ready to return to work.

Even at full capacity, my income didn’t come close to what I’d been earning before and so the freelance legal work continued until 2007 when I started my Certificate in Education in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

By 2009 I was subsidising my income through tutoring for NCMA (now PACEY). By 2011 I was subsidising my income through lecturing. By 2014 I was subsidising my income through consulting and mentoring.

But those were the easy days for sure for from September, I’ll not only be trying to bridge the gap in my income but trying to bridge the gap in early years education funding too.

It used to be pretty do-able. My funded 3 and 4 year olds had always moved on from being a funded 2 year old, where the funding rate was enhanced. When averaged, the higher rate and the lower rate almost evened out, so it was okay. The 30-hour offer is different though.

Without expanding my provision it could squeeze out my 2-year-old offer entirely, and if this is the case for other settings too then my local authority could be jeopardising high-quality provision for the most disadvantaged children in my town, which is considered one of the most deprived in the country and was, in fact, part of the pilot back in 2006.

Where a new childminder, a new childminding agency, a nursery or a school can access their fair share of £50m capital funding to support childcare settings in providing the 30 hours “free” offer, I cannot: despite the fact I am already offering childcare for three and four years old and I am already recognised by Ofsted for providing high-quality care.

And yet, whilst not without grave concerns about sustainability which the recent DfE’s ‘Evaluation of Early Implementation of 30 Hours Free Childcare’ has done little (if anything at all) to allay, I am considering trialling the offer of 1,140 hours per year stretched over 50 weeks of the year.

How will I continue to deliver outstanding care and education with less income? How will I afford to replenish resources and equipment? Pay for ongoing training and development?

Well, these days I’m subsidising my income through blogging and product reviewing. Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it sooner actually. There’s no overheads: no travel expenses, no parking fees and no overnight accommodation to pay for. And how am I bridging the under-funding gap you might ask? Crowdfunding.

Yes, I’m subsidising my early years provision through begging. Really, it’s come to this. So far, we have all the timber, screws and guttering we need. I do hope my funding officer likes our shelter that will support transitions from indoor to outdoor provision next time she calls by for head count.

Andi Turner is an Early years mentor, provider and blogger. Check out her blog at allearlyyears.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @turner_aturner.

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