Examination of Witness (Questions 10 -
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
10. We have tried to get a range of people in
front of the Committee today. I do not think Pam Bolton or her
organisation, Handsworth Community Nursery in Sheffield, gave
evidence to the Committee, written evidence, and we did not call
her for oral evidence, but, as Chairman, I did visit Handsworth
Community Nursery and it seemed appropriate, because of a certain
phase of development (you politely called it that, Pam) that you
were going through at the moment, that it would be interesting,
where it is really happening on the ground, if we asked you in
and heard what you thought about (a) our report and (b) how you
see that reflecting on your experience at the moment. Do you want
to give a thumbnail sketch of your organisation, what you do on
the ground, very quickly?
(Ms Bolton) It is a community-based nursery.
We started sort of ten years ago as a mother and toddler group,
basically. All the staff who work in the setting now were once
parents, so we have all gone through training, have all qualified
now. It has just built up. It has been capacity building at its
basic level. We are now running a 40-place nursery, giving holiday
respite care for special needs, holiday care, after-school care,
and we actually cater for about 85 families in the community.
11. How is it funded?
(Ms Bolton) It is funded through parents and obviously
the nursery is funded through the three- and four-year-old fundingand
that is it.
12. But you are going through a particularly
(Ms Bolton) We are at the moment. I mean, we do apply
for grants. I mean, my role now in the nursery is I do not see
very many children but I just apply for grants to keep the setting
going. Obviously, we have been there now so long that parents
do rely on us in the community. We are the second largest nursery
in the communitythe others are state maintainedand
our role is that we feel we have got to be there. Regardless of
what happens, we keep it going. We take cuts in wages, we cut
hours, staff leave, staff come back, just to keep it going, to
give that service to parents who really want us to be there.
13. There you are, sitting there, running this
organisation, trying to make ends meet. When our report came out,
did you find it helpful at all?
(Ms Bolton) Yes. In the long-term, I think especially
the Nurseries in the Neighbourhood initiative is going to help
immensely. We are looking to move out of the setting we are in
now to a derelict school, so obviously that is actually going
to help. It is the short term, before that sets in. Many, many
settings just like ours will fold because there is not that support,
there has not been that support there. We have taken every opportunity
that has been thrown at us, but still it has been lacking in financial
support. We are lucky in Sheffield that training opportunities
have been really good. We are well supported by the Sheffield
Community Childcare Network and area planning. We really, really
are well supported. The local colleges have got problemsthey
have got financial problems with assessors and stuff like that.
But really it is there for us to have and we are really lucky.
And I think most settings in Sheffield do take advantage of that.
14. What is the difficulty? What would make
your life easier?
(Ms Bolton) If settings like ours were given a budget,
based on what we do and how we deliver it. At the moment, I use
a crystal ball. Our local EYDCP say to me "sustainability".
Sustainability can only be made on a good business plan with a
sound budget. You cannot do it in any other way. And I use a crystal
ball. My hours can change term by term. You cannot plan any further
ahead. We have to put three-year delivery plans in and it is virtually
impossible because we have no sound budget to work to.
15. You said you had got support from the Early
(Ms Bolton) Yes.
16. Can you tell us how well in your experience
those partnerships work as, if you like, "mummy" groups
for nurseries like yours with local government and with national
government too? Are there any changes you would like to see made
in partnerships? Or do you think they function properly as they
(Ms Bolton) Ours functions very well. We do get lots
of support, financially as well as, you know: "Things are
bad but we will come and talk to you," that kind of thing.
So, yes, that has been a help. Without that being in place, we
would have folded before now. There is no doubt about that. I
think the structure is working well for us and the feedback we
are getting from that seems to be good.
17. Does it work well, in your opinion, in planning
provision across the authority?
(Ms Bolton) Yes, I think so. In Sheffield it does.
18. I know you can only answer from your experience.
(Ms Bolton) I mean, I cannot say for anywhere else,
but in Sheffield, yes, planning seems to be there in place. Consultation
is there. Nothing is done without consultation. The voluntary
sector have got this childcare network and I think two or three
people on that sit on the EYDCP, so we have got a really strong
voice on that.
19. Are you under pressure because schools are
taking children at a younger age?
(Ms Bolton) Yes.