There is NOT enough money in the system, Sarah

Yesterday, in Nursery World magazine, Sarah Teather wrote this:

She said “We have ensured there is enough money in the system through the new Early Intervention Grant (EIG) to retain the network of children’s centres”

This  article “Early Intervention Grant is cut by 11%” explains how the EIG represents a cut in funding.  (December 2010)

“Funding for intervention programmes in England, such as teenage pregnancy and youth crime support, are to be cut. Next year the government is introducing a new early intervention grant, which will be given to local authorities to distribute as they see fit. The grant will replace funding to schemes like the Youth Taskforce, the Youth Crime Action Plan, Young People Substance Misuse and Teenage Pregnancy. But it will be almost 11% less than previous funding streams. The Department for Education says in 2011-12, the overall amount that will be allocated through EIG will be 10.9% lower than the aggregated funding for 2010-11. In 2012-13 it will be 7.5% below the 2010-11 figure.”

The money isn’t ringfenced either so individual programmes are vulnerable. Michael Gove, the education secretary said: ‘The EIG is not ring-fenced, giving local authorities the flexibility to respond to local needs and drive reform, while supporting a focus on early intervention across the age range.”

And here are just a few examples of forthcoming CUTS to children’s centres:

Manchester to privatise all its children’s centres (February 2011)

“Closure threat to ‘250 children’s centres”  (January 2011)

And in Lewisham (February 2011) “As part of its £88 million cuts package, Lewisham Council is proposing to cut Sure Start Children’s Centres budgets by 20% from March and then hand them all over to private providers by September”

In Hammersmith & Fulham

In Hampshire County Council

Warwickshire County Council

London Borough of Barnet

There is NOT ‘enough money in the system’, Sarah.

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Cuts to EAL services will hit struggling children & schools hard

I heard a month or so ago that our local service for children who have English as an Additional Language (EMAS) was being cut. Here  is their website which gives you a flavour of what they do. The funding for supporting children in secondary schools was to be halved. This was shocking enough as the service provides vital support to pupils and the teachers who are trying to enable them to access the curriculum. There was no news regarding services for Primary School and Nursery children.


On Friday I heard through a primary school Headteacher in Brighton that the Council is proposing that the whole EMAS service is cut, with a small number of Bilingual Support Assistants being retained, but without any co-ordinating service.  


The nursery I work in and the school we feed have many children from ethnic minorities and many different languages are spoken. This enriches the experience for all children at the school and nursery. It has a hugely positive effect on countering prejudice because if young children spend time with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures, they are naturally accepting and tolerant. Caring for and educating children who don’t have English as their first language or whose parents speak no or very limited English, has its challenges though. In nursery, we have found the support from EMAS in the form of advice, training courses and, especially, Bilingual Support Assistants who come and work with children at the setting, invaluable. They encourage continuing use of home languages which (although this may seem counter-intuitive) is the best way of ensuring children learn English well. They are also vital in helping us to liaise with parents, acting as translators. One small example recently was with a grandmother who speaks no English and does the dropping off and picking up. She was not bringing a coat for the 3 year old child as she didn’t understand that we take children outside in all weathers; this was not common practice in her home country. Once this had been explained in her home language, she brought a coat every day.


I am not a fan of judging schools by SATs or other test results but this is the system we seem to be stuck with. The school I work in is in a deprived area and is under-subscribed. Prospective parents look at SATs scores because they are encouraged to do so and because they are published. They are put off by low SATs scores even though for the pupils concerned they are often excellent, given their starting points. My youngest son attends the school and is doing really well. He does well because he is reasonably bright and we support him and home and actively support the school. Unfortunately, many parents see what we have done as some sort of gamble.


For EAL pupils, if they have not had adequate support early on, their results will be deflated. As well as being demotivating for the children concerned, it has a negative effect on the school’s overall results. This makes even less parents inclined to choose the school which perpetuates a problem. Under-subscribed schools are forced to take children who have been excluded from other schools because they have spaces. They find it harder to recruit and retain staff, including Head Teachers. A falling roll means less money coming in to the school at a time when the talk is of schools ‘buying in’ support services rather than LEAs providing them for all schools (due to swinging cuts and to funds being diverted to Free Schools).


I sincerely hope the council think ahead to the longer term implications of cutting such an important service but the cynic in me isn’t filled with optimism.

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Hollow words from Sarah Teather



 I was due to attend training to become an assessor for EYPS on Wednesday this week. This has now been cancelled. This is because, despite Teather’s commitment to graduate leadership, Brighton University is not able to take on any more students for EYPS. The current cohort will complete their courses but the University has to re-tender for the right to offer courses in the future, none of which will start before January 2012. Presumably, the government is going to try and get the University to provide high quality training for less money, otherwise why expect them to tender again for a course which has been running perfectly well? And how is having a gap of nearly a year with no new intake of students going to provide lots more highly qualified graduate staff for Early Years settings in Brighton and Hove?

Yesterday, Sarah Teather confirmed the Government’s commitment to graduate leadership in Early Years settings.


Good news it would seem. Different studies have supported the idea that graduates leading Early Years settings improve outcomes for children attending those settings. The EPPE study found that graduate level leaders of settings led to better quality settings. This study from Wolverhampton’s Centre for Development and Applied Research in Education found that Early Years Professionals are ‘a force for good’.

Early Years Professional status was introduced in 2006 under the previous government in order to ‘up-skill’ the early years workforce and, particularly in private and voluntary-led settings, improve the level of staff qualifications. In stark contrast to countries like Finland, daycare staff in private nurseries in England have traditionally had low levels of qualifications. Existing graduates were encouraged to get their EYPS through University based study and a rigourous assessment process. The training programmes were fully funded through the CWDC (losing it’s governmental status as part of the bonfire of the quangos) and daycare settings got supply costs to enable students to be released to undertake this new ‘status’. I got my EYPS in 2007 and, like many others, have found it to be extremely beneficial in enabling me to manage my nursery and implement changes which have led to improvements in the quality of the setting and hence the outcomes for children. This high quality was noted by Ofsted who rated the nursery ‘outstanding’ last year.

Ms Teather said:

“ we will continue to invest funding in graduate programmes in 2011-12, and the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) will continue to deliver both the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) and the New Leaders in Early Years (New Leaders) programmes.”

The money which Teather is committing to spending on training programmes for EYPs may well be a waste; how are the successful candidates going to get jobs which pay anything close to a graduate salary? And without the prospect of enhanced rates of pay there is very little incentive for people to complete their EYPS. The level of pay in day nurseries for non-graduate staff is extremely low and is often at or little more than minimum wage levels.

Teather goes on to talk about continued funding:

“As I’ve said before in these pages, the Department secured a good spending review settlement for Early Years services against a difficult economic backdrop. The Early Intervention Grant brings together funding for Sure Start, youth and family support for the most vulnerable children and will give local authorities greater freedom and flexibility in designing local services. This includes the recruitment and deployment of graduate leaders and investment in other qualifications to support the wider workforce.”

Under the previous government, a Graduate Leader Fund was created which local authorities administered to provide incentives to daycare settings to employ EYPs by subsidising salaries. This helped significantly with recruitment and retention. This is something which Ms Teather implies is a good thing which she would encourage councils to retain. But the funding is contained in the Early Intervention Grant which is being cut by 10% locally. And it is not ring fenced, so cash-strapped councils may not be able (or willing) so continue to provide the Graduate Leader Fund, certainly at the levels required to top up salaries adequately.

The previous government created a requirement for full daycare settings (open all day) to have an Early Years Professional by 2015. This, coupled with funding incentives under the banner of the Graduate Leader Fund, provided a significant incentive for nurseries to ensure at least one member of staff worked towards EYPS. This requirement has now been scrapped. Without a requirement and without adequate subsidies to wages, I can’t see how or why most profit-driven nurseries (or even those like mine which are just trying to break even) will continue to recruit or retain graduate level leaders such as EYPs. The other funding (for free nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds) is only enough to pay non-graduate level staff, and with increases in VAT and other costs, even this will be difficult.

Ms Teather: “There is a lot to feel confident about in the Early Years workforce.”  I wish I could agree.

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Pupil Premium: Not enough and not new money

Deputy PM to claim ‘pupil premium’ victory I’m sure people will be really impressed that despite the huge failure on stopping the rise in tuition fees which the Lib Dems facilitated, they will get their flagship pupil premium policy through. And as it will be so effective at improving social mobility and narrowing the gap between rich and poor, it will help ‘heal the divided party’.

The problem is, it is not new money and it’s nowhere near enough.

This report from the NCB: ‘consultation on schools’ funding – introducing a Pupil Premium – NCB response’ was published in October 2010. It says the anticipated figure for the Pupil Premium was around £2000 per pupil. There certainly have been cutbacks; this has been reduced to 22% of that figure in 2 months! Even the £2000 figure was considered not enough to cover the loss of funding for poorer pupils which will happen due to ‘central sources of additional funding drying up’.

The NCB refers to IFS research which is reported here 

Danny Alexander said here   “By doing things like freezing the pay of public sector workers, including teachers, we are giving more spending power to schools but we are seeking to focus rises within that on the most disadvantaged children.” So cutting the pay of the people charged with educating our young children, including those who are deprived, is paying for the pupil premium. Along with cuts to EMA and School Sports Partnerships. Great.


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Frank Field’s not-so-new ideas

Today Frank Field published his report on ‘preventing poor children becoming poor adults’: 

Here are some of his recommendations and my comments:


“1. The Review recommends that government, national and local, should give greater prominence to the earliest years in life, from pregnancy to age five, adopting the term Foundation Years. This is for several reasons: to increase public understanding of how babies and young children develop and what is important to ensure their healthy progress in this crucial period; to make clear the package of support needed both for children and parents in those early years; to establish the Foundation Years as of equal status and importance in the public mind to primary and secondary school years; and to ensure that child development and services during those years are as well understood.”

The Early Years Foundation Stage

was introduced in September 2008 and all childcare settings must abide by its guidance. “The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the development, learning and care of children from birth to five. All registered providers of Early Years care are required to use the EYFS statutory framework.” Mr Field doesn’t seem to be acknowledging its existence much in this document.


 “6. The strategy should include a commitment that all disadvantaged children should have access to affordable full-time, graduate-led childcare from age two. This is essential to support parents returning to work as well as child development.”

I look forward to hearing about the funding that childcare settings will receive in order to provide graduate-led childcare from age two. At the moment, a subsidy is received by settings to assist with recruiting and retaining graduate level leaders in nurseries (the Graduate Leader Fund). The amount varies widely as it is left up to local councils how much they pay. And it is ending in March 2011 – hopefully this emphasis from Field means they will continue with it. Otherswise, nurseries can’t afford to pay graduate wages. Tax credits for working parents are the other way in which childcare has been subsidised to enable those on low incomes to work. I had heard these are being cut. 

 “8. Sure Start Children’s Centres should re-focus on their original purpose and identify, reach and provide targeted help to the most disadvantaged families. New Sure Start contracts should include conditions that reward Centres for reaching out effectively and improving the outcomes of the most disadvantaged children.

9. Local Authorities should open up the commissioning of Children’s Centres, or services within them, to service providers from all sectors to allow any sector, or combination of sectors, to bid for contracts. They should ensure services within Children’s Centres do not replicate existing provision from private, voluntary and independent groups but should signpost to those groups, or share Centres’ space. This should encourage mutuals and community groups to bid and help ensure that efficiencies are made. Non-working parents should spend one nursery session with their children. The pattern of provision that has been developed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in order to meet local needs of the most vulnerable children should act as a template to those providers in England who have successfully won contracts.”

Targeted help is already given via an ‘enhanced Health Visiting service’ which means that some families have lots of support from Early Years Visitors and are encouraged to take up services. The services are mostly there for anybody in the area to use though. That helps remove stigmatisation and resentment amongst less deprived parents who feel people on benefits are getting ‘something for nothing’. This talk of bidding for contracts, i.e. privatisation, is depressing. How can it be economically sensible to have ‘middle-men’? I am getting bored of saying it but properly funded state provision is vital in education and healthcare. Otherwise, it is very difficult to maintain consistent high quality and there is almost always a conflict of interests because any private company needs to make a profit. It’s a way of driving down wages and other terms and conditions of staff to franchise services out.


“10. Local Authorities should aim to make Children’s Centres a hub of the local community. They should maintain some universal services so that Centres are welcoming, inclusive, socially mixed and non-stigmatising, but aim to target services towards those who can benefit from them most. They should look at how they could site birth registrations in Centres, provide naming ceremonies, child benefit forms and other benefit advice. Children’s Centres should ensure all new parents are encouraged to take advantage of a parenting course. Midwives and health visitors should work closely with Centres and ensure a consistency of service is provided, with continuity between the more medical pre birth services and increasingly educational post natal work. Children’s Centres should seek to include parents’ representation on their governance and decision­making bodies.”

I am pretty sure most of the above already happens in children’s centres with the exception of birth registration and naming ceremonies. Continued Sure Start funding is needed to maintain this though. 

12. The Department for Education, in conjunction with Children’s Centres, should develop a model for professional development in early years settings, looking to increase graduate-led pre school provision, which mirrors the model for schools. The Department should also continue to look for ways to encourage good teachers and early years professionals to teach in schools and work in Children’s Centres in deprived areas, through schemes such as Teach First and New Leaders in Early Years.”


I’m glad to see Early Years Professionals mentioned, although without the capitalisation for some reason. Here is some information on Early Years Professionals (I am one of these) from the Curriculum Workforce Development Council which is losing its government funding   

“13. Local Authorities should pool data and track the children most in need in their areas. A Local Authority should understand where the children who are most deprived are, and how their services impact upon them”


Locally we use IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)   to work out where the most deprived children are living and target support via a funded 10 hours per week for disadvantaged 2 year olds scheme (note that this isn’t a new idea but has been piloted in some LEAs, mine included).  

“14. Local Authorities should ensure use of services which have a strong evidence base, and that new services are robustly evaluated. Central Government should make a long term commitment to enable and support the bringing together of evidence around interventions, learning from examples such as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the Washington State Institute. We understand this will be covered in more detail by the Graham Allen Review on early intervention.”

It is interesting to see NICE mentioned as I thought it was being cut.


“16. The initiatives for the wider society should be taken up by the Behavioural Insight Team based in the Cabinet Office. This Review recommends that it leads, along with key Departments, an examination of how parenting and nurturing skills can be promoted throughout society.”

Not another quango being formed, surely!


“20. The Department for Education should ensure that parenting and life skills are reflected in the curriculum, from primary school to GCSE level. This should culminate in a cross-curricular qualification in parenting at GCSE level which will be awarded if pupils have completed particular modules in a number of GCSE subjects. The Manchester Academy is currently developing a pilot scheme which could be used as a basis for this GCSE.”

I wonder what will be kicked off the curriculum to make space for this?

“22. Existing local data should be made available to parents and used anonymously to enable the creation of Local Life Chances Indicators which can be compared with the national measure. In order to make this local data as useful as possible, information collected by health visitors during the age two health check, which this Review recommends should be mandatory, and information collected as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (following the results of Dame Clare Tickell’s review) should be as similar as possible to the information used to create the national measure.”

I am sure there will be a Health Visitor who can set me straight on this but from what parents tell me (and 85% of mine are disadvantaged parents – I saw the stats from the LEA last week), they don’t do a 2 year old check. Around 3 years, parents are asked to fill in a questionnaire which, if they want to and if they remember, they give to me as nursery manager to add something to saying if I have any concerns. That’s it. I think there would need to be a huge increase in funding for Health Visitors (which I think Cameron has mentioned before) to make sure this is done and done properly. But I have a feeling that if a lot of money is diverted to Health Visitors, it will be taken from other parts of the Sure Start budget. In nurseries we already assess children and compare progress and attainment to the developmental norms given in the Early Years Foundation Stage. I hope there isn’t going to be another layer of bureaucracy created so that these assessments fit in with the ‘national measure’.

There is lots in the document that I agree with but the ‘pitch’ implies that it contains many new initiatives when in fact they already exist. The problem is the threats to funding the continuation of these initiatives.

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Lansley’s drive to promote breastfeeding

This article was in the Guardian this morning and seems to be prompting a fair amount of attention on my twitterfeed. I breastfed all three children so I have some experience in this area. I know some women can’t breastfeed and some find it incredible difficult and I am not criticising anyone in these situations.

“Andrew Lansley says workplaces must help mothers who want to breastfeed

Employers will be urged to provide private areas where women can feed their babies or express milk as part of a Department of Health initiative to be unveiled this week

Workplaces should offer mothers private rooms where they can breastfeed their babies or express milk for them, ministers will urge this week. Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, wants employers to do more to help women with babies as part of a drive to increase the UK‘s low rates of breastfeeding and boost children’s health. He will also propose that new mothers should be given more flexible breaks to help them express and breastfeed and fridges in which to store bottles.

This sounds like an exciting new idea but it is already recommended as good practice and has been for some time. This is from an HSE leaflet reprinted in 2009 and first published in 2001 ‘a guide for new and expectant mothers who work’

“Your employer is required to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest. HSE recommends to employers that it is good practice to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk (but this is not a legal requirement). It is not suitable to use toilets for this purpose.”

Going back to the article, Lansley says:

“Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to give babies good health, but our society doesn’t always make it easy for new mums to do it,” said Lansley. “If we can make it easier, more mums would breastfeed and they might do it for longer, giving their children the best start in life.”

Lansley wants to help narrow the gap in breastfeeding rates between women in routine and manual jobs – where 66% of new mothers breastfeed – and those in professional occupations, 88% of whom breastfeed. DH sources said the move “is a huge departure from the traditional central government approach of trying to solve problems by hoarding power at the centre and simply lecturing people about their health and wellbeing.”

I am not convinced that making it a legal requirement to provide somewhere to express milk once you are back at work will make the difference. In my experience, the problem is getting people to start breastfeeding in the first place or to continue beyond a few days. Very, very few women return to work within such a short space of time. The ones that are committed enough to want to go through the rigmarole of expressing milk at work (I have done this with my middle son and it was not easy, even though I was provided with a room for the purpose and had the best battery pump money could buy) are already ‘sold’ on the idea. Many families I work with are white, working class and the Mums are very young (mostly teenage). Their mothers were very young when they had them and didn’t breastfeed. Because they were so young when they had their first child, they were mostly living with their Mum who then had a huge influence on their parenting. So they didn’t breastfeed either. The cycle starts very early and is very difficult to break. The best way does not involve rocket science, it’s through education via Sure Start and other well-funded early intervention programmes with professional staff. Good Early Years Visitors work hard over a long period of time to build trusting relationships with families, they don’t go around “simply lecturing people about their health and wellbeing.”

Some other disincentives to breastfeed are to do with society’s attitudes to breasts in this country – I give you The Sun, page 3. You have to be made of strong stuff to breastfeed in public in my opinion because you do often get stared at. If your baby doesn’t latch on easily (this just means gets its mouth round properly to get the milk flowing) you need to be able to look at it. Which you can’t do if you are all covered up with scarves to make sure you are not offending anyone.

TV adverts for formula milk make bottle feeding seem like the norm too. I haven’t seen many adverts for breastfeeding, partly because of the last point I suspect.

One other thing that struck me in the article was this:

“The Department of Health is working with several as yet unnamed private companies that will try out the scheme which, Lansley stressed, would involve no new costs for businesses.”

Why do we need private companies? What will they do which won’t cost anything to businesses? Or will new mothers be charged for expressing milk during breaks?

There is lots of information here on a longstanding campaign against the promotion of formula milk in the developing world by NESTLE from the Baby Milk Action Coalition.

And finally, as an employer in a small business, there is no way I could provide a separate room for breastfeeding staff; there simply isn’t the space.

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Child Benefit – to means test or not test?

When the idea of means testing child benefit was in the press earlier in the year, I started off (like many people) thinking it was fair enough for rich people not to get Child Benefit. They don’t need the money. Why should they get it? What’s wrong with targeting it at those in most need?

The Child Poverty Action Group made me look a little more closely at this issue. Here are some of its aims:

CPAG’s aims are to:

  • Raise awareness of the causes, extent, nature and impact of poverty, and strategies for its eradication and prevention;
  • Bring about positive policy changes for families with children in poverty;
  • Enable those eligible for income maintenance to have access to their full entitlement.”

These are aims I fully support.

According to Imran Hussain, Policy adviser at the CPAG, the take up of Child Benefit is around 98% whereas the take-up of means tested child tax credit is around 80%. (You can read the full article published in the Sunday Times on 28th May 2010 here:  )

The issue of wealthy people receiving benefits they don’t need should be addressed through taxation; Child Benefit remains universal but is included as taxable income. Critics say that the wealthy often avoid paying tax but the answer must surely be to tighten up tax loopholes and increase the number of Revenue staff employed to ensure compliance.

The CPAG published a manifesto for success in ending child poverty in 2009. One of their 10 ‘tangible steps’ is:

Move away from means tests. Tax credits and means-tested

benefits are complex and expensive to administer. They generate

high levels of error, which prevents families from getting their full

entitlement. By contrast, universal benefits, such as child benefit, are

simple, effective and popular. When combined with progressive

taxation, universal benefits do not squander money on those who do

not need it; they ensure that everyone who is entitled gets what they


Yesterday they released a statement on the Child Benefit means testing proposal:

“CPAG statement on child benefit proposal – a new child penalty


In response to the Chancellor’s comments on changes to Child Benefit, Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“This is not the right thing to do; this is the wrong thing to do. This is a new child penalty.

“Once again families with children are being expected to bear the brunt of the cuts. This is taking money directly from children and, once again, from their mothers, who are the main recipients of this benefit. It’s shortsighted and counterproductive to ignore the role this benefit plays in family finances.

“We urge the Government parties to honour their election pledges not to means test child benefit and to recognise that investing in ending child poverty may save the Government £17 billion a year through lower benefit spending, greater tax revenue and lower public spending on health, education and criminal justice.”

“It’s difficult to see how the Government is going to meet its target of ending child poverty by 2020 through undermining the most popular, widely understood and targeted benefit helping families.””

Universal Child Benefit shows that as a society we value children and the extra cost they bring to parents. They are the citizens of tomorrow; they will be the workforce of the future, providing services, paying taxes into the economy and, one way or another, looking after us when we get old. Under the current proposals, wealthy people without children won’t be penalised but wealthy people with children will lose out. Because of the married tax break proposal, wealthy people without children who are married will be better off, whereas single unmarried parents will lose out. That is penalising people for having children as well as penalising them for not getting married. Neither seems right.

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