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You are in: Jersey > People > Your island > Free nursery places for all?

Toddlers

Should all children attend nursery free?

Free nursery places for all?

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.

50% access

At the moment it’s claimed there are only enough free nursery spaces for around half the island’s three and four-year-olds.

Playtime at nursery

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.

Voted against

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.

Improving care

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.

Four options

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.
2)      Reducing the number of hours of free care from 30 hours to 15 hours, but making this available to all three and four-year-olds.
3)      The States investing in a public/private partnership.
4)      Improving the number of children catered for by introducing means tested charges.

Nursery children at the Guru Gobind Singh College

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
created: 08/07/2008

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

SeBastien
The nursery should be free, not such of money, 1000 pounds per months, it's too much !!

Bruce Horwood
I might be cynical but due to lack of published details I assume there will be a catch, such as compulsory opt-out of free nursery if you choose a nursery that charges over the set hourly rate. Not only could this prejudice smaller private nurseries and middle income families but it could force the better nurseries to make cuts so that it can afford to reduce the hourly charge. The logical solution is for parents to pay the difference.I would welcome the details which no doubt will follow the election.

Child care
I assume that before people have children, which is one of the most expensive things in life, they arrange suitable accommodation and work out whether they can afford them. However, in reality they expect the taxpayers to fork out - again.

Nellie Maçon
Nursery care should be free for all 3-4 year olds and Senator Vibert promised to pay the private nursery schools for this when he first suggested the idea. He then reneged on his assurances and built units on some primary schools. As a result several private nursery schools went out of business. The nursery schools do not make a profit on very young children due to the legal carer/child ratio and only start making money as the children grow older. If you take all 3 - 4 year olds away fropm the private nurseries they will have to close and then where will working parents be? One condition - the nursery care should be means tested but with a reasonably high ceiling, say £60K - £70K combined income so that most taxpayers will benefit but those that really can afford to pay still have to do so. I absolutely agree with Ms Lever that trained teachers are not required. Nursery nurses in the private sector are trained to give 3-4 year olds the same skills education as the teachers - why should the tax payer be charged more for unnecessarily qualified staff?

bridie
As a taxpayer and an O.A.P no i dont think children should be given free nursery care,i am also a grandmother i think like other people if they want to do it means test them like the sick and ederly get done to them.

Bronia Lever
I think that we should have a working partnership between the States and the private sector. The private sector provide nursery places at convenient times for working parents, which the States nurseries currently do not do. It would be much fairer if all 3 & 4 year olds were offered say 15 hours of nursery time per week, whether that be private or school nursery and any additional hours would need to be paid by the parents.

In regards to means testing, although I agree it should be considered, I worry that families with the most need who currently are not part of the income support system may be penalised. If they haven't been in the Island for at least 5 years, how would this work?Also there needs to be some parity between States and private nurseries. Why do we need qualified teachers in States nurseries when the private sector have fully qualified nursery nurses? At 3 & 4 years old, children are going to nursery to socialise and interact and do not need to be taught until they go to primary school. It would be cheaper to employ nursery nurses and also maybe a charge could be made for attending States nurseries?All children should have access to nursery care and I think it would be fairer for that to be 15 hours per week.

SR
it would be fantastic if all 3 and 4 year olds could have a free place for at least 20hour week. However i do not think it should necessarily be means tested (why be penalised if you are willing to work and happen to have a good job) but i do think on the application form you should state if you intend to send your child to a private primary school, and this should lower you down the criteria list,(if you are willing to pay for education, don't take a states place for one year and leave others without a place) and if a parent lies on the application form the school nursery place should be reimbursed by the parent.

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