A look back at how the Alliance has been supporting the sector in the past year - this article originally appeared in our magazine for members, Under 5 magazine.
The Alliance often asks its members to share their views on upcoming changes and current concerns affecting the early years sector. Here are some of the ways we have responded to your feedback in the past year:
You said that the DfE’s cost template was not helpful for calculating the cost of delivering a funded childcare place…
In February, the Department for Education (DfE) asked providers to share evidence of how much it costs you to deliver a funded childcare place. However, many of you said that the form provided was too broad and would not offer an accurate assessment of the costs.
In response, the Alliance created its own cost calculator that you could use instead. Comprising a word document and Excel spreadsheet, it allowed providers to get an accurate estimate of the average hourly cost of delivering a funded place for different age groups. The DfE confirmed that it would accept evidence submitted using this format instead, giving them a more accurate assessment of average costs in the sector.
You said you needed help understanding how new data protection rules would affect your setting…
The General Data Protection Act (GDPR) came into effect on 25 May 2018. But in the lead up to this change, a snap poll on Twitter revealed that 79% of our followers didn’t even know what GDPR was and only 1% said that they were prepared for the new rules.
The Alliance launched a new course free to all members, Implementing the GDPR, in partnership with online training provider EduCare. We also created several mini-guides on the changes and a quick GDPR quiz, which are all available free for Alliance members in the members’ area of our website.
Alliance members can also access Law-Call, a 24-hour legal helpline, for support when implementing the regulations (please visit the members area to find their contact details).
You said that the current rules for claiming funding for related children for childminders were unfair…
At the moment, childminders are unable to claim funding for any children who are related to them, even though this is not the case in group setting, which can claim funding for children related to staff members.
Nearly 2000 childminders shared their views on this topic through our online survey in March. 31% of those that responded currently had a three- or four-year-old related child who was eligible for the 15 or 30 hours offer. 35% of those childminders’ related children were accessing their entire entitlement with a different provider, but most (90%) said that they would rather look after the child themselves if they could receive the funding.
Since then, the Alliance has been in regular contact with the DfE about this concern, and the results of the survey have proved vital to the discussions so thank you to all that responded. As always, we will let our members know as soon as we have any further updates.
You said that the stress of working in the early years was having a detrimental impact on your wellbeing…
In April, the Alliance launched a survey on mental health in the early years sector. The results were revealed at our annual conference in June, with 57% of practitioners saying that they had suffered from anxiety as a result of their work and a quarter saying they were considering leaving the sector.
The Alliance is now working with Department for Education and Ofsted on a new sector-led initiative to help reduce workloads, particularly administration, for early years practitioners, which we’ll be announcing more about soon. We’ve also pulled together all resources we have on promoting positive wellbeing in the early years – including a mini guide to paperwork, a business plan and budget, and several blogs and articles – into one convenient location on our website, here.
You said that funding for the 30-hours offer continues to be a real concern…
Since its launch in 2017, the 30-hours offer has attracted criticism from the sector, particularly surrounding funding rates, which the government currently plans to freeze until 2020. With rising costs, including the national living wage which is due to increase to £9 per hour in 2020, many providers argue that this is unsustainable.
The Alliance has continued to campaign on this issue. As a founding sponsor of the APPG, we helped host a Lobby Day in Parliament in July where more than 100 childcare providers met with their MPs and peers to discuss their concerns.
We asked for your views in August to mark the first anniversary of the 30-hours scheme in September. We also surveyed Mumsnet users to hear about parents’ experiences of the offer. Almost half of the providers who responded (48%) said that they had increased their fees as a result of the offer, while 45% of parents asked said that they had been asked to pay increased fees for non-funded hours since the introduction of the offer.
We shared these results far and wide, with chief executive Neil Leitch appearing on BBC Breakast, news bulletins and The Victoria Derbyshire Show. The story also appeared in The Independent, The Financial Times and many other national news outlets, helping to raise awareness of our concerns.
We’re continuing to campaign relentlessly in this issue, both through the APPG and beyond, with the help of near 7000 Fair Future Funding campaign supporters.
As we head into 2019, the Alliance will continue to support the early years sector through all the challenges it faces. If you’d like to share your experiences on thoughts on any of these concerns, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Fair Future Funding campaign will continue to call for an annual review of the free entitlement funding levels and better data on the cost of delivering funded places.
How can I help?
If you’d like to support the campaign, visit our campaign page to:
sign up as a supporter
encourage parents to join as parent supporters
download a template letter to help you write to your local MP and a 30-hours factfile to help inform your arguments about the 30 hours offer
Alliance members can also read the latest issue of Under 5 online by logging in to their members' area, here