Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 20 - 34)



  20. Do you work closely with schools in terms of liaising with your children going up to school? Do you have any sort of cooperation with schools where, for instance, you might decide to keep the three-year-olds, but you are working closely with them, rather than them feeling that they have to take those three-year-olds or, indeed, four-year-olds from you rather than cooperating in terms of developing that foundation stage curriculum.
  (Ms Bolton) We have got very, very close links with all three of our local schools. We actually do swap staff. One or our staff goes to work in their school and one comes back. We do this on a regular basis. When children are going into school, the member of staff who deals with that child actually takes the group there and she works in the school with the children. On the area planning we all sit and we discuss what we have got. We always have done. We have always had very, very strong links and it has been really, really supportive. We are lucky again in Sheffield: we have access to a community teacher, who comes in and has helped with curriculum planning over the years. We have always met the base assessment to schools. So, yes, our links are very, very firm.

  21. How does the adult:child ratio compare between your setting and school settings.
  (Ms Bolton) We have one:eight or one:five and at the moment I think they are working on about one:14/one:15.

Valerie Davey

  22. You are describing a situation where the support is there but the need is greater. Is that the situation?
  (Ms Bolton) Yes.

  23. The need you have in your particular community setting is not just the children but the families. Is that fair?
  (Ms Bolton) Yes.

  24. How are you able to meet that? Is our report, which I think is saying that it is the family as well as just the child who they need in Early Years to take some responsibility, is that part of the new demand or the demand which is particularly great in your setting?
  (Ms Bolton) In our setting, obviously the demand is there. We have very, very close parental involvement. As part of the recommendations, that is something that we welcome because it has been there from the start with us. The job has got to be right. Parents need the wrap-around care. That is very, very important. They need us to be their family support. Part of the way forward for us is we want to supply a family support unit, because there is nothing in the area, and more and more I have been getting so many social service referrals. I have been asked to act on an individual basis to parents as their family support and I have had to turn it down because I cannot do that.

  25. Can you tell us from the report whether there are one or two of our recommendations which you particularly would endorse and what is it we should be asking the Minister next week in the context of the work you do?
  (Ms Bolton) Multi-agency involvement is very important. Again in Sheffield we are lucky. We have just started with that with the area health authority. I think it is important that health visitors should be attached to the setting. We do it on a personal level with local surgeries and that kind of thing, but that should be in place. It is not just education in Early Years; it is family support. It is an essential partnership.


  26. Can I just tease out this magic ingredient you need. When I visited your setting, I had the impression that you were subsidising a whole range of greater care for children, much longer hours, out of the basic funding you got.
  (Ms Bolton) Yes.

  27. Where you did get funding. What is the package that the Government could deliver to you to make your life not all milk and honey but actually survivable?
  (Ms Bolton) A budget. We need a budget.

  28. Where would you think that budget would come from? What is it based on?
  (Ms Bolton) It should be based on the setting: what it offers; what it delivers; the number of children it has in it. The funding for three- and four-year-olds is wonderful but it falls short because it is only for 11 weeks. The maintained sector gets it for 15. So we are having to cut time, you know. We only get it for 11 weeks. Their budget covers the extra weeks we have not got. As soon as those 11 weeks are finished, we have to stop.

  29. So you are in an unfair competitive situation.
  (Ms Bolton) Yes.

  30. You would like us to say that to the Minister?
  (Ms Bolton) Yes.

  31. Right. OK. Pam, we are coming up to the 15 minutes. Is there any last word of wisdom you would like to give the Committee on this? -something you have not said which you will go away regretting you did not say.
  (Ms Bolton) I think we should remember in all this that the voluntary sector has got a lot to offer. It is not just mums playing at it. It is not just dads playing at it as well. There are men and women out there that want Early Years as a career and I think it is really important. That has to be said, and, you know, the men and women that want it are parents.

  32. Are all your people training in your setting?
  (Ms Bolton) Yes. We have got two or three that are doing training, we have got juniors who are doing training as well, but they are all qualified staff.

  33. Are you ashamed of the levels of pay that you are able to offer?
  (Ms Bolton) Yes. Yes.

  34. Are you in the league that our former witness suggested: £7,000 a year?
  (Ms Bolton) Just about. I mean, because of our financial problems at the moment, we have had to cut hours; I cannot cut hours, I took a drop in pay. That is how we operate. But we will do that because we need to keep going.

  Chairman: Pam, thank you very much for coming.

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