Childcare and education charities have hit out at the Chancellor for failing to take action to address the funding concerns of the Early Years sector in his Autumn Budget.
Both Pre-School Learning Alliance and National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) have expressed their disappointment that while Chancellor Philip Hammond announced further funding for schools, no money was forthcoming for Early Years.
Neil Leitch, Pre-school Learning Alliance Chief Executive, has written to Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi stating that there is an 'absolutely critical' need for an urgent solution for underfunding, especially in light of announced increases to both the national minimum and living wages next April. He calls on the Department (DfE) for Education to commit to working with the PVI sector to call for more funding ahead of next year's Spending Review.
Commenting on the letter, Mr Leitch said: "Given that Early Years is known to be one of the lowest paid sectors, the planned rise to the national living and minimum wage should have been cause for celebration. Instead, many providers will have...wondered if they'll even be able to remain open this time next year.
"It's just common sense that if outgoings increase but funding remains frozen, then more providers – many of whom are already struggling to survive – are going to be pushed to the brink. The DfE knows this, and when it comes to maintained nursery schools, is willing to make the argument to the Treasury that more funding is vital. So why are they unwilling to fight the corner of the PVI providers delivering the vast majority of funded places?"
The NDNA said some aspects of the Autumn Budget will have 'an adverse effect' on nurseries and Purnima Tanuku, NDNA Chief Executive, described it as 'a real kick in the teeth for the Early Years sector'.
She said: "Ministers are well aware of the impact of rising costs on nurseries but have chosen not to offer support at this crucial time. Our research shows nurseries are losing thousands a year because of underfunding of the 30 hours policy which is seeing businesses close at an alarming rate.
“The Government continually fails to address the impact of increases to minimum and living wages on the childcare sector. Instead of funding keeping up with above inflation wage increases we are seeing it stagnate and, in some areas, going into reverse.
“While there was an extra £400m for schools there was nothing announced for childcare providers despite the immediate pressures many are feeling.”
Mr Hammond also announced that the apprenticeship levy paid by SMEs towards training a new starter will be halved from 10% to 5% - a package that will cost £695m.
TES quoted Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), as saying: "This is a major and positive shift, which the AELP has been pushing hard for since before the levy was introduced, and it should enable providers to work with smaller businesses to start getting back to offering apprenticeships to young people and local communities."
In addition, Mr Hammond outlined the Government's other priorities for further education, including a recommitment to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.
"We’ve introduced a new system of T-level vocational training, have put the first £100m into the new National Retraining Scheme, and through the apprenticeship levy we’re delivering 3 million high-quality apprenticeships in this parliament," he said.