Should all children attend nursery free?
Free nursery places for all?
By Claire Peters
The States are looking at how the provision of free nursery places could be made fairer. Do you think every three and four-year-old should have access to free care?
Parents in Jersey are calling for free nursery places for all children, do you agree?
In a recent public consultation meeting, islanders said all pre-school children should have access to free places at both private and States nurseries, through a States partnership with the private sector.
At the moment it’s claimed there are only enough free nursery spaces for around half the island’s three and four-year-olds.
Some States schools have nursery facilities
The allocation of those places is generally decided by catchment area for the primary schools, some of which have nursery facilities included, although on occasion case- by-case appeals have resulted in a free-place.
Many islanders believe the current ‘postcode lottery’ system is unfair, and want to see all children access early years education for free.
In September 2007 the States voted against an amendment to the Annual Business Plan which would have increased funding to extend free early years education to all three and four-year-olds.
But a report released by the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel earlier this year said there was an inequality in the provision of care for three and four-year olds, which needed addressing.
In response, Senator Mike Vibert, the education minister, has asked the Jersey Child Care Trust to look into ways of improving care for three and four-year-olds before they start mainstream school.
The JCCT put forward four main options which could solve the problem.
1) Keep the current policy of building new nursery facilities in primary schools.
Half of children have access to free nursery care
While the second option may look like a sensible solution, for early years care to be beneficial they should have at least 20 hours a week, according to Advocate Sue Pearmain who chaired the recent consultation meeting.
She also said by introducing means-tested charges “those who are the most in need of pre-school care might be the ones who don’t take it up”.
Partnership is fairest
At the public meeting people believed the third options was the fairest way to provide pre-school care to all - that the States of Jersey invest in a partnership with the private sector.
The proposal could see States purchasing places in the private sector nurseries to ensure there was free provision for every three or four-year-old.
“The advantage is that it also includes the private sector so people would have the choice between going to the States sector or private sector,” explained Advocate Pearmain.
“Also of course it would provide employment for those involved in the private as well as the States sector,” she added.
Have your say
Which of the four options do you think is the fairest way to provide free nursery care for all young options?
Do you think every family should have access to free nursery provision? Or do you think all parents should pay?
Are you happy with the current system? Can you think of any other solutions?
As a tax payer would you be happy to see more funding ring-fenced for early-years education?
last updated: 10/07/2008 at 12:30
Have Your Say