29 November 2016
The introduction of means-testing for free nursery education is being postponed for one year so that systems can be put in place.
This follows States Assembly’s decision at the end of September to approve means-testing of the States nursery grant, under which £3,914 per child is paid to private nurseries to provide 20 hours a week of free nursery education during term time for one year. The States also decided that parents who use nursery classes in States primary schools should be means-tested as well.
Under the proposal, families with a household income of more than £100,000 a year will no longer be eligible for free nursery education in either sector. Families earning between £85,000 and £100,000 will receive a portion of the free hours.
Education Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said “Since the States debate there have been discussions with the Early Years Childhood Partnership (EYCP), which includes representatives of private nurseries. We will be working together on a broader strategy for the future of early years but are also discussing the immediate funding problem.
“The budget for the Nursery Education Fund has been exceeded previously but we have been able to cover the shortfall from other parts of the Department’s finances. This will not be possible in future without affecting other education services and schools, so we still need to introduce means-testing.
“However, it has become clear that adding school nurseries makes the implementation of means-testing more complicated because it involves two separate systems of administration. I have decided to delay the introduction for one year because of the extra work required and to allow for consultation with head teachers.”
Chief Education Officer Justin Donovan said “Early years education is an absolutely vital part of a child’s development and our aim is for as many children as possible to access high quality nursery. Broader discussions about how the Island achieves this are ongoing and in the meantime we also have to balance the books and ensure the NEF works within budget allocated to it.”