In our Open Days and in communications with parents, we are often asked whether Unity Montessori will accept registrations from families applying to the 30-hour free childcare funding program to be launched in September this year. The following quote is quite pertinent to illustrate our position:
“The average hourly rate that local authorities receive from the Department for Education for the free entitlement is £4.85… The average local authority base rate in 2017-18 –the amount which will actually be passed on to childminders– is £4.28.”
The quote comes from a report produced by the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), and it refers to childminders, that is, people who look after children at home. The funding from the government quoted above does not even amount to the National Minimum Wage (£7.20 x hour for over 25s).
This creates a distortion and much confusion among parents. Most private nurseries have inescapable overheads (rent, staff, materials, etc.) that make it impossible to operate on government-funding figures. It is very simple really: the shortfall between government funding and real operative costs has got to come from somewhere. It is our understanding that children whose education is government-funded on the 30-hour basis, will not have to pay any top up costs, and nurseries are unable to make additional charges to meet costs. That being the case: who pays the difference?
This is an issue that’s being widely debated. On the one hand politicians are making unrealistic promises, while on the other the media tends to contribute to the confusion, by failing to inform accurately on the figures behind the 15-hour or the 30-hour program. Our view is far from unique: as reported by the BBC, a recent survey done by the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) shows:
- “74% of the nurseries that responded feel the government has underfunded the scheme”.
- “38% do not believe their business would be sustainable in 12 months’ time”.
Some nursery operators have even gone on record to claim the “30-hour free scheme is ‘doomed’“. We are just starting our nursery, and while our expectation is that it will grow and become established, we can not afford at present to accept enrolments on the 30-hour free childcare scheme basis.
In our Open Day today, we introduced children to a foreign language (Spanish) through music. The method is the brainchild of Bilingual Beats, an award-winning education company. But rather than trying to explain what their innovative concept is about, why not let participating children, parents and teachers do the, erm, singing ?
Bilingual Beats description of their method:
“Our curriculum combines a carefully balanced mix of linguistic content, such as theme words, phonemes, common sentences and basic structures; and musical content, such as songs, tonal and rhythm patterns, rhythmic rhymes, and instrumental play-alongs, in a wide variety of tonalities, meters, and music styles.
It is based on research done in the fields of music education, language acquisition, CLIL (content and language integrated learning), early childhood education, and child development. Our classes support the child’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical development, in line with the EYFS framework.”
Children have an ability to learn languages from birth. Dr Maria Montessori noted different stages of development, and described them as sensitive periods, during which children seem to have a predisposition to learn a specific skill or set of skills. Bilingual Beats has added an element of fun to the natural language learning process, using music and rhythm to make it more enjoyable. We therefore completely support Bilingual Beats’ method, and believe that children in our setting will benefit tremendously from such partnership.
Wow! Saturday was a very exciting day, many families came to visit our nursery, and the general feedback was great. Children and parents enjoyed a storytelling session, and the little ones explored our carefully prepared environment. It was heart warming to see them feeling at ease, that is the idea, ultimately our school has been thought of and designed to create a “home from home” feeling.
As the children played, created and explored, we had the opportunity to observe one of our visitors exploring all the numeracy activities, counting, and matching, completely absorbed in his self-selected activity. While another child created her own colour matching activity with the art resources provided. This proves the importance of having a prepared environment and follow the children interest, as Montessori emphasises.
There was even a little one that was so engaged in her activity that when her parents told her that it was time to go home, she said to them, “You go, bye bye” as she waved goodbye to them.
A big thank you to all the parents and children that joined us! Our next event on 22 July is going to be very exciting, with music and languages from our dear friends, award winning Bilingual Beats!