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so.. is there a market for independent not-for-profit low cost childcare?

(9 Posts)
superfrenchie1 Sat 24-Sep-11 23:50:03

i've been thinking about how great it would be if there was an independent not-for-profit group of nurseries that were able to provide lower cost childcare. perhaps like a co-operative group where all the staff and parents were shareholders.

childcare costs could be subsidised by things like renting the space out to adult education groups in the evenings / childrens parties at weekends; even operating a family-friendly cafe on the same site, or something (though you'd have to be careful about having members of the public on site and keep them well away from the children, etc). having a veg garden and charging groups to come and learn about gardening, running courses, i don't know.

obviously you'd need to cover staff costs plus rent and everything - but i am convinced there is a way. perhaps co-operative members could get trained up and then you could have parent volunteers who could help in return for free / reduced childcare for their own children, or use well-supervised trainee nursery nurses.

it would be so great if there was a space where you could also accommodate elderly people and other community groups in some way, eg once a week a shareholders' bring-a-dish supper, once a week afternoon tea for the elderly people and you could bring in some children to entertain them. i don't know.

what do you think, is there any mileage in this or is it a non-starter? am i missing some essential bit of info that renders this completely impossible...? or are we just waiting for a brave entrepreneur to tackle it and then roll it out across the country?

superfrenchie1 Sat 24-Sep-11 23:51:32

doesn't have to be a chain of course - could be a one-off! i am genuinely interested to hear what people think!

RitaMorgan Sun 25-Sep-11 00:00:26

There are very slim profit margins in childcare as it is - not sure how you'd be able to make it work. Many private nurseries already employ young, poorly paid "trainees" because of this.

There are non-profit nurseries and co-op nurseries out there already, maybe look into how they operate.

I think the problem is, high quality childcare costs. If you want good staff, you have to pay well - you want high adult:child ratios, lots of space, good food etc. Difficult to do that in a low cost way even with using volunteers and renting out the space in the evenings.

superfrenchie1 Sun 25-Sep-11 00:24:25

thanks rita... yes you're right... i'll investigate... it wasn't so much that i want to start something like this myself (i have no background in childcare) - i just think that SOMEONE should...!

HoneyPablo Sun 25-Sep-11 08:08:40

The thing is, the current emphasis in early years is on the children's experiences and is totally centred on the children.
In your scenerio the children seem to be hardly more than an afterthought -*perhaps co-operative members could get trained up and then you could have parent volunteers who could help in return for free / reduced childcare for their own children, or use well-supervised trainee nursery nurses.* Hardly striving for quality. Recent research has shown that higher qualifications and good quality provision mean better outcomes for children.

Also, Ofsted are very keen that settings have sole use of premises when children are present because of safeguarding concerns. Insurance would probably be very expensive because of this too.

While your idea sounds lovely in theory, it's not very practical.
What you have described is more like a community centre, with separate projects. All of which would need to be managed separately, as all require different skills and knowledge.

menopausemum Sun 25-Sep-11 20:19:51

It is a lovely idea - though probably rather impractical. It's a lot like how playgroups originally started up around 40 years ago. Mums got together, hired a church hall and took it in turns to help out voluntarily with a supervisor and maybe two staff working full time (which was two or three mornings a week mostly). I was a playgroup supervisor 35 years ago and was paid 50p per week. These days most parents work and there aren't the large numbers of stay at h ome mums with time on their hands any more so that would make it even more difficult but if anyone can work out a way...... Good Luck.

superfrenchie1 Sun 25-Sep-11 22:13:00

thank you! yes i completely agree.

i just feel that as the govt are not providing what we need, someone should... and having seen the way Free Schools are springing up i thought maybe a group could start Free Nurseries (free as in having some freedom / being quite autonomous, not free for parents....)

but i think the govt should be providing this really (high quality schools / low cost but high quality childcare etc)

PrettyCandles Sun 25-Sep-11 22:27:55

My dc went to a fabulous nursery almost exactly like your vision, Superfrenchie. Daytimes the entire building was the nursery, evenings and weekends it was hired out. They had all the licences - drinks, music, etc - and good facilities. Weekend daytimes there was a community kitchen. There was a weights gym in the basement. It was an excellent community resource and the nursery was never low in numbers. The quality of care at this nursery was IMO outstanding.

But just running and staffing the centre cost a lot, and it was impossible to keep nursery fees low. This was in London, in a relatively deprived area that needed exactly such a resource, and at the time the daily rate was about £50, about twice as much as outside London.

menopausemum Sun 25-Sep-11 22:28:21

Yes, the most important thing is high quality. When the govt started offering free education to all 3 and 4 year olds it took over the playgroups by offering them funding to provide part of the promised free education. That meant parents would generally only use the ones who accepted 'cos that way they got the childcare cheaper. Result was that any who didn't take govt funding closed. Govt then had control over the playgroups in terms of curriculum etc. Govt insisted on half of all staff being qualified which changed the dynamics. All this was supposed to raise quality and in many groups it did but some excellent staff left rather than do all the massive amounts of paper work plus doing qualifications they didn't want. I can't see the government going back on all this whilst still providing funding for free education. The parents would have to fund it themselves - I don't think many wish to pay for this when the group down the road gives 15 hours a week for free. This is not to say I don't agree with you - I think there is enormous room for improvement but as others have said - quality costs money, that's why its difficult to find at the moment. Perhaps we could tap into retired people who are still young enough to work and have useful experience but who would be willing to volunteer. I've got 35 years experience and am just starting to be a grandmother, many of my friends are in the same situation, perhaps we could start granny playgroups! Sorry I'm waffling - my youngest went to uni today and I'm using this as displacement therapy.

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