The rationale for increasing funded childcare provision to working families, from 15 hours to 30 hours, was welcome news to many families across the country when it was introduced in 2017.
It meant that some families, if they met the criteria of both parents working and not earning more than £100,000 each per year, could access full-time nursery provision for their child.
There is an argument that free childcare provision for three and four-year-olds should be available to all families because the benefits for the child in terms of early learning and social interaction are well evidenced. But for families who are not employed the government will only fund nursery provision for 15 hours per week.
The change was rolled out to authorities across the country between 2017 and 2019. Working in a maintained primary school with nursery provision the impact of the change was felt significantly.
The nursery had always offered full-time funded provision only and was full with a long waiting list. In 2019 the school learned that it would no longer receive that funding and had to conduct a lengthy feasibility study to determine if the nursery could continue to operate and, if so, how it could be managed.
School business managers are best-placed to lead on any similar feasibility studies with support from the nursery teacher. In the feasibility study, the business manager will need to consider actual staffing costs for both full-time provision and part-time provision.
The costs of potential redundancies resulting from closure or reduced operating hours would then need to be taken into account alongside predicted pay increments.
Once the applications are in and the enrolment has been agreed the school business manager can review how much funding each child would bring in, based on their IDACI band and the hourly rate that the local authority has confirmed it will pay.
Using this formula for each pupil will allow the business manager to report to governors in terms of financial sustainability. It can also be used to determine a fee for any parent wishing to access full-time provision if they are not eligible for the free 30-hour provision.
Communication is crucial
Communication with parents is crucial for managing the implementation. Parents need to understand how to access the 30 hour code and what its implications are and they need to understand why their child might only be eligible for part-time nursery.
Parents’ open days are a great arena for sharing this information. Take time out of the SBM day and attend the open day armed with leaflets outlining the steps to take to apply for the 30 hour code and take questions from the parents about how they can apply and what you, as a school, might be able to do to support them.
Keep track of codes
If your school is able to continue to provide nursery provision make sure you keep a track of the codes. You will need to revise your nursery admissions policy to stipulate that no child can receive full-time provision unless you are provided with the code or agreement to pay appropriate fees.
It is a change in culture but, with organisation skills and an understanding of IDACI bands and hourly rates, you will be able to lead and support the school as it moves into a new way of working.
Caroline Collins is head of school business strategy and resources at Miles Coverdale Primary School. Follow her on Twitter at @caroline_261.