30 hours free childcare may by under threat

Robert halfon image
Robert Halfon MP. Friend of 30 hours free childcare…..or Foe!

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph states that ‘Unemployed are more deserving of free childcare’. Robert Halfon, former minister said children from deprived families with non-working parents were more in need of childcare than those with well off-working parents. Our initial thought reading this article was that this statement was unfair and why should unemployed parents benefit from free childcare more than working families whose household earns under government-mandated income thresholds?

The article comes across very misleading. Reading further into it Mr Halfron would like to reduce the household income threshold for the free 30 hours from £100,000 to £65,000. The reduction in the number of eligible children, and therefore funding set aside for those children, would free up £150 million to support the more vulnerable children, including children in foster care.

It has been very encouraging that finally working families are properly supported with their childcare through the 30 hours free provision, and this also helps non-working parents to return to work so helping the economy. What’s wrong with that? It’s been a long time coming and directly addresses inequalities in society that have been known to hamper our national productivity.

We will be looking out for any more signs of a detrimental revision to the current rules and keep you up to date. We may need to ensure our voice is heard in protesting against unwelcome changes.

Free 30 Hours Childcare for Working Parents of 3 & 4 Year-Olds

imageAT FIRST FRIENDS we have been pleasantly surprised by the uptake of the 30 hours of free childcare for three to four year olds and feel that it has benefited the working families amongst our customers who are now able to afford childcare and continue to work as they wish.

Vicki Francis, a customer at our Basingstoke pre-school says ‘My little boy has been with Abacus for a year now and loves it. The 15 additional hours has really helped with my work and home life balance. It is very reassuring that my child is in a safe and secure environment and is learning and having fun with his friends. It also helps him get into routine for when he starts school on September’

How does it all work?

Parents can use their 30 hours entitlement over the 38 term-time weeks of the year, or a stretched offer of 22 hours per week over the full 52 weeks of the year. Many nurseries have certain time slots in which their children have use funded hours, which do not always afford the flexibility that working families need.

Unfortunately, not all nurseries have opted in to offering the extended hours, due to either their capacity or not being financially viable, with some childcare providers closing down.  At First Friends, we are fortunate to have the capacity to accommodate the extra hours in our normal opening times.

If you are looking for quality childcare, please contact Jane at our Salisbury nursery on 01722 743119 or Sho at our Basingstoke pre-school on 01256 320290.


Are you entitled to the extended hours?
Your child must be aged between three and four
Both parents must be working – or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family
Each parent must earn a minimum of £115/week
Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000
You must live in England

Is the UK Apprentice Scheme worthwhile for day nurseries?

As any of our staff will tell you, working in a day nursery is challenging, very hands-on, always varied and hugely rewarding.  A job in a day nursery is a vocation – some would say it is a calling.  But as a vocation, the necessary skills can be learned on the job and so junior positions in day nurseries can be usefully filled through the current apprenticeship scheme.   The scheme mixes training at work (including gaining valuable work experience) with study in a college setting so that apprentices gain job-specific skills as well as general skills.


With the subsidies for small employers as a financial incentive, and a general skills shortage in the day nursery sector, you would be right to expect a high apprentice take-up rate.  But at the time of writing, out of some 700 jobs in the sector currently advertised here on daynurseries.co.uk only six are for apprentices.  And here on nurseryworldjobs.co.uk there are only four true apprentice jobs out of some 300 advertised.  These statistics suggest that our sector is not embracing apprentices.  We know that in our areas of operation across Wiltshire and Hampshire, very few day nurseries are taking apprentices on.  We speak to the apprentice contacts in the colleges around our settings and they are frustrated at the number of apprenticeship places that are available at any one time across all sectors, not just day nurseries.


At First Friends, we always have at least one apprentice on our books, and sometimes more.  When we have found the right young people, they have excelled and gone on to become competent, caring professionals in their field.  But, apparently, not all day nursery companies feel the same.


Our experience proves how worthwhile the UK apprentice scheme is to the day nurseries sector.   More day nurseries should embrace the UK apprenticeship scheme as way to access cost-effective, enthusiastic youngsters with lots to offer.   In the long run, today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s managers, and we all have a duty to invest in the UK’s future labour force.


First Friends owner Louise Hayes with our Salisbury manager Jane Andrews and her deputy Tobie Keel.

We are delighted to report that our Salisbury setting was a finalist at this year’s South Wiltshire Business Awards in the Apprentice Employer category.  Well done to our staff team there, led by our manager Jane Andrews.  Let’s hope that the recognition of our achievement encourages others to think more positively about apprenticeships.