24 March 2016
The Nursery Education Fund, which provides free nursery places for three-to four year olds, is being updated and the changes will include refocusing the funds to help families that most need assistance.
Currently, almost every child in Jersey has their nursery education subsidised by the States when they are aged 3 to 4 and in the year before they start Reception at primary school. Irrespective of their income, all families can receive 20 hours of free nursery education for their child for 38 weeks in term time at a private commercial nursery. This accounts for £1.9 million of the Education Department’s budget annually.
From September 2017 the Nursery Education Fund will be targeted for the first time so that children families with a household income of less than £75,000 will receive the free places. The States spends £3,914 per child per year on the nursery places.
Education Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said “The Nursery Education Fund was introduced as a universal benefit – one that everyone automatically received regardless of their circumstances. We simply can’t afford to do this any more and the time is right to make sure our spending helps the most vulnerable children and has the maximum impact. This is perfectly in line with our commitment to the 1001 Days Agenda.
“It is difficult, in the current financial circumstances, to justify giving this subsidy across the board to higher-earning families but we also need to protect the funding for those who would otherwise struggle to afford nursery education.”
The Education Department has received some protection from budget cuts but is still playing its part in balancing the States budgets in the face of a potential £145 million shortfall.
Chief Education Officer Justin Donovan said “Every education professional knows the value of high quality early learning and the positive impact it can have on a child’s education and subsequent life changes. We have redesigned the Nursery Education Fund in a way that gives us a more streamlined fund but is also better targeted to help children from less affluent families. This will enable the Department to make savings but also ensure we continue the vital work in early years that will help us drive improve education standards for the Island.”
A meeting took place with representatives of private nurseries to explain the changes before they were announced. More meetings are planned to work through the details of the changes.