Memorandum submitted by Susie Warburton


1. In a word, the impact is devastation.

The EYSFF is devastating the "jewel in the crown of education" - the state maintained nursery school sector which has been offering "outstanding" full-time places to the deprived communities which they have served with excellence and innovation for years, at least in Newcastle upon Tyne - a city with some of the most deprived wards in the country. State maintained nursery education as provided by full-time place schools such as Walkergate Early Years Centre (WEYC) provides a beacon to the rest of the Early Years Sector, nationally and internationally and in an ideal world should be what the rest of the country is working towards in provision to nursery aged children. It is ludicrous that the opposite is happening and the best of Britain's nursery provision is being literally financially and educationally ripped in half under the EYSFF - a formula which is supposed to be helping the Government to move towards its targets of providing free nursery places for all children. 15 hours is an advance for the majority of families but for families in Local Authorities such as Newcastle where resources have been sensibly poured into nursery education as a concrete method of tackling deprivation, the 15 hour offer is devastating.


2. Personal Impact as a Parent

My second daughter will only get half the nursery education my first daughter received. My 4 year old daughter Isabella had an "outstanding" (both Ofsted and Izzie agreed) full-time nursery education at WEYC (we live in nearby Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne - 30th most deprived ward in the country (Index for Multiple Deprivation)). Her 2 year old sister Lily will not get this fantastic start to her education. From September WEYC can only offer her a half-time place due to the EYSFF. I work 20 hours a week, the excellent day care I have been using at WEYC provided by Millers Dene Family Centre will no longer have a place for her once she is nursery school age as historically the children have always moved up into the full-time nursery school so they have no room for 3-4 year olds. My available day care provision from the state and PVI sector for me to work is therefore being directly cut by the EYSFF to an extent that I cannot do all my hours at work.


3. Parental Impact

Many parents count on WEYC to be able to return to work or training when their child is a rising 4 - with places being limited to 15 hours by the EYSFF this will severely restrict the work and training which can be accessed by these parents, both those who can and cannot afford to pay for child-care as the child-care will simply not be available as the sector is set up locally to fit around full-time nursery provision, not half-time. Many parents rely on Working Tax Credits to top up their earnings - the main-carers of children at WEYC will no longer be able to qualify for Working Tax Credits under the 15 hour core offer as it is necessary to work a minimum of 16 hours a week.


4. Impact on Parents living in deprivation

Impact on parents will also include the extra stresses involved with caring for young children four and half days a week at home with no respite provided by school rather than the current two days a week at weekends. For parents who are dealing with the stresses of multiple deprivation, this will not be at all insignificant and could contribute to extra cases locally of stress related illness, depression, and child-protection issues. WEYC is an integrated centre incorporating school, day-care, wrap-around care and Surestart Children's Centre from birth to 5. We provide a vital support to families in our community, tailored to their individual needs through our two outreach workers and all the staff through the Centre working in a holistic way. All of this together provides the best educational start for children, breaks the cycle of poverty, gives a very positive first experience of the education system to parents and children, provides help and advice to parents on financial, employment, training and health issues and encourages Parents as Partners in Early Learning. This integrated service will be jeopardised with nursery provision being only half-time. Also our excellent quality of support for children with Special Educational Needs will be severely diminished through such extreme funding constraints - once again meaning that the EYSFF penalises the poorest families.


5. Impact on Children

WEYC is attended by children from some of the most deprived wards in the country (Walker, Daisy Hill, Pottery Bank). It is a place where they are cared for, nurtured, respected, fed healthy food, and given outstanding opportunities for learning through play by some of the most qualified and experienced Early Years Practitioners in the world (who are regularly speaking at conferences, nationally and internationally) in an unusually rich spacious and natural environment which incorporates a walk-way through a copse in the playground and the school's own woodland on site which is used for Forest Schools Curriculum and activities with an artist (indeed much of the curriculum is "taught" through use of our fantastic outdoor space affording the children freedom, fresh air, exercise, connection with nature and spirit ensuring that the whole child is developed at WEYC. Currently deprived local children have access to these "outstanding" staff and facilities five full school-days a week. Under EYSFF their access will be cut in half to two and a half days a week. This not only means a slashing in half of their educational experience but an increase in their time spent in deprived homes where their exposure to all the factors which accompany deprivation will be increased from two full days a week to four and a half days a week, factors such as, ill-nutrition, unhealthy housing, smoke, stressed and possibly depressed parents/carers, sometimes violence, and so on.


6. Impact on Staff

With places and funding being cut in half, our excellent staff are not only worried for the safety of their jobs but angry that the centre of excellence that they have worked so hard to build is being decimated - staff will not be able to provide the outstanding quality of education they do now for 104 children full time to 208 children part-time - it is simply not possible. It is even unlikely that we could enrol 208 part-time children as there just aren't that many children locally.


7. Impact on WEYC

Providing "outstanding" nursery education will no longer be possible or affordable under EYSFF as stated in the above paragraph. WEYC is being plunged into financial insecurity as funding will depend on numbers of children which may well vary term to term under EYSFF making financial planning difficult.

To counterbalance this insecurity the School Governors are working extremely hard to come up with creative ways to run the school including having to look at running privately for part of the school week for those families who can pay. What a travesty that an "outstanding" state nursery school serving a deprived community is having to consider becoming a partly private fee charging school to be able to continue to offer any quality education at all! The majority of the families in our local community will not be able to afford this service so we will have to look at attracting families from more affluent areas of the city to attend the school. The EYSFF is therefore hitting the poorest families hardest here in our local community. Plus this is in direct contravention of what Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families wrote to the Director of Children's Services in October 09 saying that "any nursery school that offers good quality provision and is generally full (85-90%) should not see significant changes in funding". We are just such a school with 100% occupancy and "outstanding" provision and yet our school budget is being cut almost in half!


8. Impact on School Budgetary Planning

As School Finance Governors we have been given the figures as produced for our school by the EYSFF in September 09 for implementation in April 2010 - i.e. we have been given 7 months to turn a full-time state maintained "outstanding" nursery school into what, only the future can tell. We are hopeful that we are creative enough to find ways to keep the school and its partner organisations on-site alive and thriving i.e. a Surestart Children's Centre with activities from birth to five and two Family Outreach Workers and a much in-demand day care charity and family centre. However, much will be lost in the process with huge impacts as touched on above to parents, children, families, staff, and the wider community.


9. Conclusion

The impacts here in Newcastle and Walkergate in particular are so far-reaching and devastating that it would make sense to exempt full-time state maintained nursery schools from the EYSFF altogether out of a recognition that they provide the sort of nursery provision that this country is aiming towards and provide a beacon for other providers to learn and benefit from - this is far more valuable than the few extra pennies per PVI provider that cutting the 400 state nursery schools' provision in half will provide. Does this country really want to rip the jewel from the crown of education serving the most deprived communities through a policy which is intended to improve nursery provision for all?


November 2009