Childcare markets after the election

ICMEC seminar 15 July 2010

Two prominent speakers, Carol Jenkins, Managing Director Places for Children and Alison Garnham, CEO of the Daycare Trust, discussed the way forward for childcare businesses under the Coalition government and amidst difficult economic circumstances. Before turning to this subject, Carol Jenkins gave an honest and thoughtful account of the main challenges facing Places for Children within the current economic environment. Places for Children is a major childcare chain forming part of the Places for People Group, a national not-for-dividend organisation, one of the largest in the UK specialising in property management, development and community regeneration. Outward facing and focused leadership was one of the key elements she identified as crucial to childcare business sustainability.

To see the PowerPoint presentation by Carol Jenkins go to: ICMEC seminar 15 July 2010 presentation Carol Jenkins MD Places for Children.

Alison Garnham spoke about a study published by Daycare Trust at the end of 2009 and undertaken in collaboration with the Social Market Foundation and the Institute of Fiscal Studies. This explored what it would cost to build a high quality early childhood education and care system in the UK, by improving staff training and qualifications and their pay and employment conditions. Within the proposed system, 3 and 4 year old children would be entitled to 20 hours free early education. In order to achieve this system and the associated better outcomes for children, the government would have to increase its expenditure on ECEC until it equalled 1% of GDP, up from the .5% it spends currently.

To see the PowerPoint presentation by Alison Garnham go to: ICMEC seminar 15 July 2010 presentation on Daycare Trust Quality Costs report CEO Alison Garnham.

The presentations were followed by a wide-ranging discussion among the audience, including policy makers, childcare business leaders, think tank and research agency staff and academics.

Posted 20 July 2010

Childcare in Europe: recent developments

ICMEC seminar 22 February 2010

Both speakers at the second seminar in the 2009/10 ICMEC seminar series recently produced major research reports for the European Commission; Janneke Plantenga for the Directorate General for employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and Helen Penn for the Directorate-General for Education and Culture. For information about these reports, follow these links: Professor J Plantenga 2009 EU report details and weblink; Professor H Penn 2009 EU report details and weblink

Professor Plantenga provided an economist's perspective on childcare provision within the context of gender and employment issues, while Professor Penn discussed international research evidence on the social benefits of early childhood education and care. Professor Plantenga's report comparing childcare data from 30 European countries within and outside the EU was based on SILC data, the Statistics on Income and Living Data. The audience was reminded that in this database family daycare (childminding) is located under 'other' forms of childcare rather than under 'formal' childcare.

Professor Janneke Plantenga is professor of the economics of the welfare state at the Utrecht  School of Economics, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. The title of her presentation was The provision of childcare in Europe; the Barcelona Targets revisited? You can see the presentation here: 22 Feb 2010 Professor J Plantenga presentation ICMEC seminar.

Professor Helen Penn provided a stimulating overview and analysis of the consequences of the different rationales employed within the EU for the provision of early education and childcare services. The audience was reminded of the great variety of such rationales. European childcare policy is certainly not homogeneous. She is professor of early childhood at the School of Education and Communities, University of East London. The title of her presentation was: Early childhood education and care: competing trends in Europe. You can see the presentation here: 22 February 2010 Professor H Penn presentation ICMEC seminar.

Posted 25 February 2010

Childcare businesses as social enterprises

ICMEC seminar 24 September 2009

Social enterprise as a business model with primarily social objectives has received much attention of late as a potential engine of greater equity of economic power and a more sustainable society. Compared to 'conventional' businesses, this model remains under-researched.

It can be argued that childcare businesses are essentially social enterprises, because their social objectives are central to their activities. This goes beyond the reinvestment of any surpluses for the purposes of that business. Can this or any other childcare business model be made to work, though, in the context of current government policy and economic climate?

Given widely reported childcare sustainability problems in the UK, this topic was definitely due for serious examination by the group entrepreneurs, policy makers, union representatives, academics and journalists that make up the ICMEC audience. At the first ICMEC seminar in the 2009/2010 - third - series of international seminars, childcare businesses were discussed from two separate angles by two childcare entrepreneurs with a business interest in the east end of London.

From a social enterprise perspective, June O'Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (formerly Westminster Children's Society) discussed the business model underpinning the 19 LEYF day nurseries around London. From the perspective of a commercial concern with social objectives, Michael Brandon, chairman and founder of the Foundations for Learning childcare chain, discussed the business model of his two clusters of day nurseries in Bury and in the London Borough of Newham. Both speakers had experience of providing daycare as part of a Sure Start Children's Centre core offer. For her presentation, follow this link: June OSullivan London Early Years Foundation ICMEC presentation 24 September 2009.

In her wide-ranging presentation, June O'Sullivan highlighted the challenges inherent in a not-for-profit childcare business focussed on meeting the childcare and family support needs of the poorest section of society, while making a contribution to community wellbeing and indirectly building social capital. A basic social enterprise 'offer' would need to demonstrate these characteristics:

  • A local childcare service
  • Strong community roots, more able to reach the vulnerable
  • Local involvement through volunteering
  • Flexible, innovative and responsive to filling gaps
  • History of multi-disciplinary working
  • Training and qualification offer
  • Local employment
  • Intergenerational programmes

According to June, LEYC recognised that a mixed intake of children from higher as well as lower income families was key not only to individual children’s well-being, but also to the sustainability of provision.

The second speaker, Michael Brandon, provided a fascinating insight into the Foundations for Learning operations management model, particularly risk management and how to control staffing costs in the interest of keeping fees level while encouraging parent loyalty and maintain quality. He argued passionately that schools and teachers are inappropriate organisational models for early years provision. Any early years provider who would try to emulate the conditions found in nursery schools and classes was on a hiding to nothing in terms of sustainability and fitness for purpose. For his presentation, follow this link: ICMEC 24 September 2009 Michael Brandon Foundations for Learning presentation.

Not unexpectedly, both presentations generated lively debate about the philosophy underpinning either business model and their sustainability without significant and continuing public funding support. Evidence from the evaluation of the Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative and direct experience of its wider management was cited in support of and against the argument that these models could possibly be made to work under the right conditions.

Posted 30 September 2009