Nursery school threatens to segregate children whose parents do not pay voluntary charge
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A nursery school has been accused of 'emotional blackmail' after warning parents that their children could be put into separate classrooms with fewer facilities if they don't start paying its optional surcharge.
Hall Farm Nursery told parents who don't currently pay the £1-per-hour charge that their children could be put in a separate class providing a 'service commensurate with the funding provided' if they don't start coughing up.
The nursery school in Hargham – which was rated 'outstanding' in its last Ofsted inspection – implemented the voluntary charge in April 2018 to supplement the funding its gets from government to provide free childcare.
A nursery manager from Norfolk, who is unconnected to Hall Farm, said the government's pledge to provide 30 hours of free childcare meant many nurseries were struggling to make ends meet – but she said Hall Farm's approach was unacceptable.
'The voluntary charge seems like nothing, an extra £1 per hour for every funded hour they get, but some parents cannot afford it,' she said.
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'As providers we sign on to a policy which says we will provide an equal level of care, so if a child is fully funded they will not be treated any differently. 'Hall Farm are putting pressure on the parents if they opt out [of the charge], saying they will have to start offering a lesser service. That is emotional blackmail and it should not be allowed.
'They're saying if you cannot pay that much your child can go in the slightly colder room with slightly fewer staff – it is disgusting.'
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Guidance on nursery school charges from the Department for Education (DfE) says early years providers can charge for meals, snacks, consumables including nappies and sun cream, and services such as trips, but that these charges must be voluntary.
But providers should ensure that 'all children within a setting accessing any of the free entitlements receive the same quality and access to provision, regardless of whether they opt to pay for optional hours, services, meals or consumables'.
In a letter to parents, the nursery said: 'Many parents happily pay the charge as they feel it is good value and wish us to continue with all the little extras that make Hall Farm stand out and maintain our high standards.'
Charlotte Beever, of Hall Farm Nursery School, said the nursery provided government-funded places in line with the DfE's guidance, which sets expectations for local authorities and early years providers.
She added: 'From last year, providers have been able to make a charge for consumables.'