Memorandum submitted by Penny Mason, Headteacher, Arlesey Nursery School and Childcare Centre

 

1. I am writing as a Headteacher of a maintained Nursery School .

2. We have had an initial consultation period with our Local Authority over the summer. As a result of this consultation we have been given 4 different models for a suggested formula to choose from.

3. Each of the 4 proposed formulae will lead to losses in funding for our Nursery, in varying degrees when based on our numbers for the previous year. These would range from 37,000 to 108,000 for 2010-11, depending on the model chosen.

4. This large drop in funding is largely due to the fact that at present we are funded mainly on the number of places we offer, rather than on uptake. For the 2 terms of the year we are usually around 90% full. This is because we offer a full time place to all children for the term before they transfer to Lower School. In the case of our children this final term is actually either their first or first 2 terms of their Reception year. (children in our feeder school get either 1 or 2 terms in the Reception class in school).

5. This place funding at present protects our setting, which has an unusual admission pattern into the local Lower School. 99% of our children transfer to the next door school, which does NOT have a September intake. They only have an intake in January and Easter. We therefore keep our Autumn born children as Rising 5's. We will only get funding for them for this last term for 25 hours-not the possible 30 hours with having 2 groups of younger children doing 15 hours each. We also have our spring born children Full time in the Autumn term, before they also go to school in January. We therefore need to keep enough empty places in the summer term to accommodate this large group in the Autumn, as we do not lose any children in July. This puts us at a great disadvantage with the new system, which we are protected from under the present funding arrangements. We usually have around 20 Rising 5 children each Autumn as well as about 10 children who are spring born but go to school in January. We therefore HAVE to keep around 30 empty part time places in the summer term to accommodate them all being full time in the Autumn. This will be a substantial loss in funding for that term under the new funding arrangements.

6. In common with the 3 other maintained Nursery Schools in our local authority, we have received a good Ofsted inspection in the past year, which judged us as good with outstanding features. I believe that this is largely due to both our generous staffing levels and also the fact that our staff are both Qualified Teachers as well as qualified and experienced Nursery Nurses. The new funding formula will only be able to match the present level of funding if the Nursery is completely full for the whole year, and as I have shown, this is not possible with our pattern of intake.

7. The new Early Years Single Funding Formula as has been presented to us by our Local Authority, does not take account of the necessary and unavoidable costs of running a maintained Nursery School. We are being offered a base rate which will be common to all settings with an additional lump sum of 65,000 to take account of the need to have a Headteacher in the Nursery School. Whilst this would take account of the Head's salary it goes no way towards funding another member of staff on the Leadership scale, or any other teachers. We are legally obliged to have a teacher/child ratio of 2 teachers for our setting. It also does not address the fact that we pay non-teaching staff on LA pay scales, with oncosts such as the LA pension scheme, which PVI settings may not. On page 39 of the "Implementing the EYSFF Practice Guidance"-"it states that the costs of Nursery schools are examined fully... and that these costs are fully reflected."

8. Unfortunately for us (as regards numbers of children), we are in a semi-rural area, in a large village/very small town. Our catchment area is therefore this finite area-there are not other children that we can realistically recruit to supplement our numbers. To meet parents' needs we provide Childcare for the 3-9 year olds in the village from 8am to 6pm, which obviously boosts our numbers for the free entitlement element. We also open for 48 weeks of the year. There are, however, 2 other settings in the village which provide childcare-a Private Daycare setting which offers longer hours than us and a Pre-School which offers places for children 2-4 years. It is important that parents continue to have this choice.

9. I feel that implementing the single funding formula in the way that our Local Authority is proposing will undo the last 10 years of investment in good quality early years education. It will become watered down care.

10. I hope that the Government will review the implementation of the single funding formula to maintain what is already good and to improve the funding for the PVI sector in some other way.

 

November 2009