No rush for free pre-school places

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PRE-SCHOOLS and nurseries have seen very little uptake of 15 hours' free entitlement since a new funding scheme began last week.

All Guernsey's nursery schools, excluding the colleges, are taking part in the two-term trial, which entitles parents of three- and four-year-olds to 15 hours' a week of nursery education paid for by the States.

It comes at the cost of family allowance being reduced by £2.40 to £13.50 per week.

An assessment will be carried out at the end of the first term in light of fears that some nurseries, whose hourly rates are higher than the £5.90 grant per pupil, could struggle.

Monkey Puzzle founder Caroline Blondel, vice-chairman of the Guernsey Preschool Learning Association, said no parents had increased the hours their child spent at the nursery, nor had any new children joined.

'In fact, we had a couple decrease their hours because they said they didn't have to pay as much now for child care so they didn't have to work as many hours.

'98% of three- to four-year-olds already attend pre-school and we have always been aware of that situation and therefore we weren't expecting a huge influx of children,' she said.

'But there was a need to ensure that all children can access pre-school, so maybe it's something to look at for the ones who aren't able to afford it.'

Mrs Blondel said there was genuine concern within the industry about making ends meet with the flat 'one size fits all' £5.90 grant.

She said that allowing pre-schools and nurseries to charge a top-up was not being 'greedy'.

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