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Requested to extend hours - 30 hour funding


LauraB123
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Hello,

 

I am chair of a playgroup. Our Local Authority area is going to be piloting 30 hours funded places and in order to help accommodate this we have been asked to consider extending our hours. We already open from 8am - 3.30pm (breakfast club, am session, lunch club, then pm session) 5 days per week. WE have approx 80 children on the books at the moment and nearly the same on waiting list ( though some of these aren't old enough to start yet). We've also been asked to consider allowing parents to use their funded hours (whether it be 15 or 30) in more varied ways - i.e. arriving and leaving at times that don't necessarily fit with fixed sessions.

 

Our concern is that this starts to feel more like day care, even though its term time only. We would be interested to hear what others think, and if anyone else is in a similar situation.

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I would look at your monies VERY carefully ....if you are taking out services that you are in control of in order to accommodate I would avoid at all costs...if however you are just replacing like for like then it may well help (though you are obviously not struggling for numbers!) in regards to the flexibility...why do you want to???? just because they ask doesn't mean you need to say yes! Flexibility may well help parents but cause you immense difficulties with staffing and ratios

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I agree with Finleysmaid, think about what YOUR setting wants not what the LEA are asking you to do, they are after all trying to just meet their own targets - we 'upped' hours quite a few years ago now with the 3/4 yr funding at the time it suited that cohort but now we are finding it difficult to fill as more and more schools are taking up younger children.

 

Have you done a survey with parents assessing the need for these extended hours? parents might not want/use them?

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Thank you Finleysmaid and Thumperrabbit, we have a committee meeting tonight where we will discuss this and I think our next steps will be to consult with staff and then local parents. We have been asked before to consider wrap around care i.e. after school club and holiday playscheme and we did a parental survey a couple of years ago. The response was extremely low - less than a dozen replies out of over 800 surveys. But this could get a different response from parents because of the funding available.

 

I'm quite worried about the 30 hours funding anyway. For some children 30 hours seems a lot. For instance I don't feel we have the space for accommodating naps adequately for younger children. If we end up with quite a few children that are eligible for 30 hours it could mean we are able to offer less children a place, which goes against the grain for me, when we have so many children on our waiting list, some of whom will probably not get a place. There is generally a shortage of playgroup places in our area.

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Our local primary school offers 32.5 hours free per week (they fund the extra 17.5 hours out of their own budget apparently). They take children from their third birthday into a 1-15 ratio all day five days a week with no provision for naps. We are just down the road and are full daycare. Our ratios are 1-8 for three year olds (as it should be!) and we are used to offering the nurturing, home-from-home environment, particularly to children who are with us all day. Yet, we are losing children in their droves because the lure of 32.5 free hours is too much for parents to resist. As others have said, I would think very carefully about what you want for your setting, children and families.

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I would ask why you would "fix" what isn't broken - in that you are full with a health waiting list!! It would seem that you are already meeting the needs of your users!! Your opening hours already cover the 30 hours so perhaps try things as you are - you can always change if need be.

 

Having had experience of being completely flexible with arrival/departure times; I can tell you in all honesty that it is a nightmare to administer and also tends to put the business at a greater loss financially (the funded hours already doing that); I do appreciate that as a charity this may not be such an issue with you the aim perhaps being on sustainability/ breaking even!

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I think the LA's are going to be asking settings to be flexible as they under pressure from central bearing in mind that the purpose of the 30 hours is to get parents into work. Those who are already at work and using the hours as they are will benefit as they will pay less and nothing will change but in order for parents to get into employment, the childcare has to be able to meet their needs.

 

Whilst I can see what the LA's are trying to achieve an extending their offer and being as flexible as possible, they are (as always) under pressure to put the economics and politics before the needs of the children and the sustainability of the settings.

 

My advice to you would be that if you have the capacity to be more flexible without it affecting your staff and your viability as an organisation, you could certainly consider it - but if you feel things are okay for you as they are and its working well for the children and families using your setting, then you are under no obligation to do it and new parents entering employment will be able to find a full daycare setting elsewhere in the region that better meets their needs.

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I think my first point of call would be to determine just how many parents are actually eligible for the 30 hours - there is no point in putting in any changes if you don't have enough qualifying parents as it just won't be financially sustainable!

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I would ask why you would "fix" what isn't broken - in that you are full with a health waiting list!! It would seem that you are already meeting the needs of your users!! Your opening hours already cover the 30 hours so perhaps try things as you are - you can always change if need be.

 

 

That is exactly what i was going to say! :1b

 

Sounds like you already have a very successful group........we don't have to 'fall in' with whatever the LA wants :rolleyes:

 

PS - a very warm welcome to the forum :1b

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Just as a side note I met two ladies who run full day care establishments this week ....neither of them take ANY funded children which means they don't have to fit in with the funding rules set by their LEA...they are both full and have good waiting lists!

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As others have said you are already open more than 30 hours and sounds like you are full. It also sounds like you already offer plenty of options to parents and flexibility. Maybe have a discussion at the meeting about your group's vision/ethos/mission statement (whatever you call it) and decide whether these changes fit in with it. I personally wonder where all these children are going to go during the school holidays?

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Just as a side note I met two ladies who run full day care establishments this week ....neither of them take ANY funded children which means they don't have to fit in with the funding rules set by their LEA...they are both full and have good waiting lists!

Wow! I like (actually I love) the sound of that :1b

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Wow! I like (actually I love) the sound of that :1b

yes interesting isn't it! I'm afraid it wouldn't work for us but I can understand that if you are taking children from tiddlies then parents have already budgeted so probably not so much of an issue

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Would be interesting to know Finlaysmaid whether those parents accessed all their childcare at those groups or had 15 hours of funding elsewhere?

it sounded like they only really take full time children (will try and poke a bit more when I see them again!)

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Thanks everyone for your comments and replies, it's been really helpful hearing your views. Most of what you have said echoes my own feelings on this but as a new chair its been really useful for me. At our committee meeting yesterday we had a good discussion and unanimously agreed that we don't want to extend hours at this stage. We are a very popular playgroup, and provide a good quality service, so see no reason to rock the boat and over stretch ourselves. We'll leave full day care to those that do it well and carry on doing what we do well.

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