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Motorbiking Saved Me – But Who Will Save Early Years from the Impact of 30 Hours Free Childcare?

“I have absolutely no idea how long I will continue providing early years education,” says Andi Turner

  • Motorbiking Saved Me – But Who Will Save Early Years from the Impact of 30 Hours Free Childcare?

As I write I have absolutely no idea how long I will continue providing early years education.

Last year mostly consisted of me trying repeatedly to register for tax-free childcare, which has ended up being pretty pointless anyway since not a single family has asked me for it; indeed, nationally, it’s been an almighty flop.

Then there was the unfairly funded 30 hours free-but-not-really-free childcare (or was it early years education, or childcare and early years education?).

Oh, the sleep I lost, the blogs I wrote, forever trying to see the positive like I always do – or at least trying to find the funny side.

Then all those queries from confused parents:

Are we eligible? Don’t know. Try the specially set up website. Good luck.

How do we apply? Again. Give that website a go and, erm, good luck.

Why aren’t you giving it to me for free? Because I can’t afford to subsidise the underfunded offer the government very generously offered to you.

How come couples earning £199,998 a year between them can get it – even if they happen to be working part time – but me and my partner, who work full time, can’t? Well, that’ll be because, although you work very, very hard putting in an average of 86 hours a week between you (and the government really, really does value hard-working parents – honestly, they do!), sadly, your business made a financial loss last year, putting you below the eligibility threshold.

Yes, you simply earned too little to qualify for financial support… You couldn’t make it up could you?

Seriously, were it not for my love for motorbiking distracting me from all that is heartbreaking and soul-destroying within the early years sector right now, I do believe I’d have called it a day around the end of August.

Had I not been able to change out of my ever-so-feminine shift dresses and Mary Janes and into my ever-so-not-feminine bike gear and boots at the end of every work day (and for that matter all weekend long, too), then I’m pretty sure I’d have lost it altogether.

I’m not exaggerating here when I say that motorbiking saved me.

Unbearable pressures

Making the decision to cut myself off from work apart from that which is fundamentally essential, and withdrawing from social media and all non-biking friends, very effectively – and crucially – disconnected me from all that was preventing me from eating and sleeping and generally enjoying life.

I did feel really bad about that because I’ve forged some very supportive alliances these past months – those leading the Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding campaign in particular.

They’re a formidable bunch of ladies and gents who I admire enormously, and had I a fraction of the mettle and resolve that they possess then perhaps 2017 might have been a bit more tolerable.

But I’ve had a nervous breakdown before and I recognise my own early warning signs when I see them. Like losing a stone in weight when I hadn’t even a spare pound to lose. Existing on four hours sleep a night (and not all in one chunk either) when I normally need at least eight.

Crying, just crying, for absolutely no apparent reason – and I’m not talking little tears in my eyes here, I’m talking sobbing and sobbing so hard that I’m almost sick.

So with the underfunding and the financial and emotional pressures that inevitably brings, I can totally see why the number of childminding and nursery setting closures far outweighs those opening.

But what’s worse is that 81% of those that have closed were ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ settings – the ones we definitely don’t want to lose. This translates to less choice and poorer quality. And this is our government showing their appreciation for hard-working parents?

Andi Turner is an outstanding early years practitioner, mentor and blogger. Follow her on Twitter at @turner_aturner.

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