Pre-school's lesson for MP on early years funding crisis

June 30 2019
Pre-school's lesson for MP on early years funding crisis

A PRE-school invited MP Kerry McCarthy along to hear first-hand about the crisis facing early years education.

Sticky Fish pre-school manager Liz Tomlinson said underfunding of the whole system meant providers were running on the goodwill of staff.

The Government has guaranteed 30 hours of childcare to three and four year olds by law. Pre-schools in Bristol are given £4.98 per child per hour in funding – and in other areas the figure is as low as £3.80. But Liz estimates it would cost at least £7 per child per hour to properly resource the pre-school, particularly to pay staff for their time and expertise.

Like many other pre-schools, Sticky Fish, based at Fishponds Baptist Church in Downend Road, is a charity. It holds cake sales and other fundraising events to supplement the fees paid by the council and parents of under-threes, so it can meet its pay, training, rent and other costs.

Liz said: “We have a lovely pre-school but it’s all done on the basis of goodwill. I can’t pay my staff what I want to pay them and what they should be paid. They could work on the checkout at Tesco and earn more than being a qualified early years educator.

It’s a national scandal and it cannot continue.”

Sticky Fish is a member of the Early Years Alliance and nationally 7,000 people have joined the group's campaign for fairer funding when the Government begins its next spending review.

Bristol East Labour MP Kerry, who started her visit by reading the children a story, above, before talking to parents and staff, said she would continue to argue for an end to the “systematic underfunding” of the schools system.

Sticky Fish

Sticky Fish pre-school manager Liz Tomlinson with Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy, deputy manager Jo Ball and early years practitioner Aisha Ghauri.

Kerry said: “I think early years is undervalued – it’s slightly odd that as you work up the education system the wages get higher and there’s more money per pupil, when this is more hands-on and there are so many skills you need, from psychologist to social worker.

It’s so depressing to hear that they are struggling to pay the wage bill – there’s someone here with a PhD who is just about on minimum wage.

The fact that it’s nearly all women in early years is another way that it’s undervalued – there’s a perception that they are doing it because they like playing with children and there will be somebody else who is a breadwinner.

It’s so important to invest in early years and have staff who are rewarded for their work and the skills and training they’ve got.”