It has been very encouraging working with over a hundred providers around the country over the past few weeks, discussing and sharing our mutual concerns, ideas and aspirations around the Government’s 30 hours free childcare offer. Once we all realised we have a common goal and were neither trying to justify the policy, or indeed, influence individual opinions on the offer, we were able to look creatively at what practical options there are for making this challenging policy work for a variety of settings. Getting the negative perceptions out of the way and focussing solely on the facts, is an important part of the process of intelligent business development and critical to future success. Those we have talked to so far showed a great determination to find workable local solutions, despite the challenges ahead!
……so well done!!!… that in itself is an achievement….!!!..:) …Positivity breeds success!
What emerged above all from our discussions was the question of demand and what was it likely to look like?
Everyone has an opinion on demand, most thought it likely that some parents would take it up, some ventured to suggest all eligible parents would access their entitlement. However, interestingly, the important word in the last sentence was “opinion”, everyone has an opinion……!! Yet what struck us was how only a small minority of providers had factual evidence to back up their opinions / assumptions, based on their local market knowledge or research they had carried out. Few had considered existing levels of working parents accessing their services as an initial indicator as to how their capacity might be affected, so consequently we only heard opinions or assumptions…….which do not provide a sound knowledge base for building a business strategy to maximise any opportunities this brings!!
But that’s ok, it is natural to react with opinions and discuss all potential eventualities when we experience such a major policy change as this one, so it’s good that those conversations and thoughts have been aired, but now it’s time to work smart, do your research and set a successful plan in place if you want to “survive and thrive” 30 hours free childcare.
So how do we start?
Don’t be led to believe that anyone else but your own management team can ensure your success or do the things that need to be done to stay sustainable under this policy, you need to take ownership for your own business planning…. and fast…. if you want to get the most from this opportunity! Local authorities can help by providing some higher level market research around parental choices, local demand, local places and opportunities for partnership working to deliver the offer effectively in certain areas. However helpful this is, it is not likely to be enough detail about your specific customers on which to set your 30 hours delivery strategy. Your success and future sustainability will rely on the effective market research you undertake in your communities and whether you are prepared, or able, to adapt to the findings and provide future parents what they want, and that intimate knowledge has to be found by looking closely at your unique market circumstances!
Why parents are the key to success?
Whilst this is a Government policy……and also a statutory duty for the local authority to encourage sufficient childcare places…., it is ultimately driven by parental demand and market forces, so understanding and developing delivery models to match their needs, will be essential for longer term survival. It cannot be stressed enough that understanding parents needs will be the biggest influence on your success so maybe it’s time to start talking to those parents who will be eligible and needing childcare in September 2017, when this policy becomes a parental right to access. Consider all options, after all it is your free choice;………… opening all day, all year round, delivering all 30 hours yourself, delivering in partnership in localities…………….. and carefully review and balance your options to meet parental demand in a way which is sustainable for you.
Good luck in your deliberations……….and don’t forget to research future customers who may be eligible alongside those who are with you now and don’t discard any delivery option until you have done your research, figured out the finances and estimated the effects on your future sustainability!
If you want to find out more about the effects of the 30 hours free childcare policy on your setting, here’s some options: