I read a recent article in Nursery World with shock and disbelief, in which struggling childcare settings are being encouraged to operate at minimum adult:child ratios and managers to do unpaid admin.
Nursery World reported how a thread on the Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding (CNLF) Facebook page highlights the various advice childcare providers are receiving from business advisors employed by local authorities.
It says: "One nursery...said it had been advised by its council business advisor that when it has staff spare, it could offer an ironing service for parents.
"Another setting in a different area said the advice it received included asking volunteers to do admin, or for the manager do it in her own time; operating at minimum adult:child ratios; reducing staff numbers when a child is on holiday; not paying for tea and coffee for staff; and rather than paying for cleaners, getting staff to clean during sessions."
Nursery World highlighted other instances where nurseries have been advised to pay all staff the same rate - regardless of their qualifications - consider asking staff to work voluntarily for a term until ‘things pick up’, and sell takeaway meals to families.
We all know that many Early Years providers are under significant financial pressure due to rising business costs and that this pressure will only get worse with the shortfall in funding for the forthcoming 30 hours free childcare entitlement for three and four year olds.
While I agree that developing income-generating opportunities to support business objectives is something that settings should consider, suggesting professionally-trained childcare practitioners take on tasks such as providing ironing services and cleaning their workplace to make, or save, money is downright insulting.
Nurseries are in the business of offering high quality childcare to meet the Early Years Foundation Stage requirements, employing staff who have, and continue to undertake, childcare qualifications to develop both their professional and personal skills.
If someone wants to iron clothes or clean premises they would not have chosen to dedicate themselves to working with young children and the skills that requires.
As James Hempsall, National Programme Director of Childcare Works which is providing support to Early Years and childcare provides to deliver the 30 hours provision, says in the Nursery Word story: "This is a serious and frustrating business issue. And the solutions rest in providers knowing their own business, and developing income-generating opportunities to support their business objectives. Settings are best placed to decide what this looks like. And the providers in the early implementation and early roll-out areas have done just that.
‘Some of the stories and ideas shared online clearly aren’t useful as they don’t acknowledge the unique quality services that providers offer and parents value. Generic business support doesn’t cut it either. We believe business support for settings considering 30 hours should be from people who live and breathe early years and childcare, from a quality, sustainability and practical business perspective."
Well said Mr Hempsall, I just hope those offering such demeaning and ridiculous business advice to nurseries take note.