Case Study two: Early Years provision and 30 hours childcare policy
Introduction to Case Study:
In August 2016, West Sussex County Council (WSCC) appointed and funded a group of childcare providers to support preparations for the implementation of the 30 hours extended entitlement. The Early Years Innovators are a group of childcare providers from across the sector and county. WSCC tasked them with trial running the processes needed to get ready for delivering the 30 hours extended entitlement through creativity and innovation. Using a robust application process, WSCC ensured that they had a broad range of experience within the project, to match the broad range of experiences and setting types across the sector. Each setting attends regular meetings with WSCC to develop tools and support to be shared countywide and have received consultancy to support them to move their projects and ideas forward. The case study below is one of the Early Years Innovator projects.
Case Study: Angmering Village Preschool
Project Title: Creating a Split Site Setting
Angmering Village Preschool is a small, traditional preschool in the heart of Angmering Village, established for over 20 years. We are situated in the village hall and use the main hall five mornings a week for term time only sessional care. The setting had received a ‘Requires Improvement’ from Ofsted when I took over as manager in September 2015. I have worked to build relationships with staff and parents and have slowly made changes to improve practice and the environment. The setting was inspected in March 2016 and received a ‘Good’ rating.
There are five members of staff and, although we are only a small team, there is a lot of experience and enthusiasm. We have built a strong working relationship and everyone is keen to see the preschool grow and expand. This initiative is very much a team effort and we have discussed each stage of our journey together at our weekly meetings. We are now registered to take up to 24 children across two sites.
We want to be able to offer 30 hours to ensure that we would not lose families when the funding is increased in September 2017. In our current premises we are unable to open for the full 30 hours.
We currently operate from the village hall, whose management is not keen on us increasing our hours due to commitments to other users. The centre hosts a variety of community activities and wants to retain a broader community feel.
After looking at local halls, we found the Scout Headquarters that is just around the corner from the village hall. This still fits with the committee and parent’s view of being ‘in the village’. After speaking to Ofsted, this site has now been registered as a second setting. This process took longer than we originally thought and so we have postponed our opening until January 2017.
We wanted to get the views of our parents and of local families who may use our services in the future, to ensure there was a need for us to open these extra hours.
We surveyed parents who use our setting and approximately half have expressed an interest in extending hours and taking up 30 hours. Most families have one parent working but not two, or may be working part time. There is some evidence of juggling between parents for drop-offs and pick-ups. There is also new housing being developed locally so there is potential for an increase in families.
We also have a Baby and Toddler Group that is currently run by parents. We have discussed this as a staff team and feel that we would like to take over the running of the group to promote the preschool and aid transition.
To enable us to offer 30 hours to our families, we are in the process of opening a second setting. A walking bus will allow families to attend mornings at the village hall, followed by afternoons at the Scout hut. The proposal at present is to open for two afternoons a week, increasing to five afternoons either at Easter or in September, subject to demand. We also plan to take over our Baby and Toddler Group to act as a feeder and to promote the preschool with local families.
A number of the actions from the meeting suggested building on market research, increasing demand, and predicting the impact of 30 hours of free childcare:
1. Make contact with other providers (including childminders) locally and find out about demand, e.g. do they have waiting lists or vacancies?
2. Contact the FIS for information about demand, e.g. what are families asking for and are there certain trends of late?
3. Support and promote the parents survey to ensure the council can analyse and feedback information about local demand.
4. Make contact with local health visitors to engage them in a conversation about demand and for them to promote the setting.
5. Ask families, providers, and the Family Information Service how families find out about childcare to inform a marketing plan.
6. Mystery shop your own settings; try key internet searches like ‘childcare in Angmering’, for example. How easy was it to find your setting?
7. Think about who else you could work with to meet the needs of working families. For example, could local childminders collect from and compliment the setting?
8. Consider a new management model. Would the setting be better run still if the staff took on the actual responsibility for running it, for example through a community interest company (CIC)? Parents could still be very much engaged through a preschool-parent association model.
9. Have a direct conversation about usage of the current space and plans. Can the village hall committee afford to lose their most valued customer?
10. Consider different opening hours or days. For example, does the information on local demand support opening at 8am? Would it be better to open every afternoon as opposed to starting small?
11. Could the move to the Scout Hut allow for further opening times and days to meet the needs of working parents?
12. Could the preschool redesign the local toddler group, which is currently run by parents, and relaunch it with better provision and higher fees?
13. Think about marketing using different terms that families will use, e.g. ‘early learning’, ‘childcare’, etc.
14. Use social media and the internet to market the service and keep parents informed.
15. Build good relationships with local Children & Family Centres who hold lists of eligible two year olds. Suggest coffee mornings and meet-and-greet sessions between local parents and providers to help them achieve their goals as well as supporting yours.
16. Look to families and their employers (as well as other local employers) for sponsorship.
17. Keep risks in perspective. What’s the worst that could happen, and could it really happen anyway?
West Sussex County Council (2017) 30 hours free childcare: The little booklet of Early Innovator Case Studies West Sussex. Available at file:///C:/Users/markm/Downloads/West%20Sussex%20Case%20Studies.pdf date accessed 27/10/2019
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