Extending nursery provision

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Rights and conditions
02 November 2016
From September 2010 local authorities in England must increase the amount of free nursery provision for three- and four-year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours per week over a minimum of 38 weeks.

This guidance aims to help ATL members working as teachers, leaders and support staff in England understand some of the educational and contractual issues nurseries and schools will need to consider when making any changes to increase their nursery provision.

The guidance applies to schools in England only. Children in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland start school at different ages, and different policy and practice exits in these countries for the education and care of 3- and 4-year-old children.

The increase in nursery provision to 15 hours a week is likely to mean a change from five 2.5 hour sessions to five 3 hour sessions per child per week. The government also wishes this provision to be available flexibly, which may mean offering sessions of varying lengths (for example three 5 hour sessions) for some children.

This may mean that work patterns in your nursery school or class have to be revised to accommodate the change. For teachers and support staff in maintained nurseries this may impact on your pay and working hours.

There is no agreed model as to the best way of implementing this additional nursery provision. Each nursery, and school with a nursery class, in consultation with staff, will need to develop a model that best suits the needs of the nursery and the school.

Changes to the length of the nursery day

Any change to nursery hours must only be made following consultation with all staff. The nursery day must allow for a reasonable break between 12noon and 2pm for staff to take lunch.

There are many ways in which the day could be changed which may include:

  • increasing the length of the morning and afternoon session – this may be by starting earlier or finishing later
  • increasing the length of the morning and afternoon session by using only support staff or other agencies at the start and end of the session, for example by offering breakfast, lunch or after-school club provision
  • introducing a second session in those nurseries that currently only have one session
  • increasing the length of the morning and afternoon sessions, but allowing crossover at lunch time so that all children are in the nursery over lunch
  • offering a combination of full- and part-time provision in order to meet the requirement for flexible provision.

Additional issues to consider when changing the nursery day may include:

  • agreeing how much flexibility can reasonably be offered to parents without compromising the quality of provision
  • identifying which children are attending which sessions as parents are able to tailor the nursery provision to meet their needs
  • finding time for informal conversation with parents as they pick up or drop off their children, particularly where there will be crossover of provision or reliance on support staff for beginning or end of sessions
  • planning curriculum provision for all children, particularly if a combination of full- and part-time provision is planned
  • ensuring continuity of provision for children by allowing adequate time for nursery staff to plan and assess together
  • providing meals and supervision at lunchtime
  • providing rest areas/quiet areas for younger children who may still require it
  • the impact on caretakers and cleaners of changes to hours of work, and on midday supervisers where lunch arrangements are changed
  • the work-life balance of staff who may have personal circumstances that prevent them from being able to extend their working hours - this may be of particular relevance to part-time staff and consideration will need to be given to the needs of these staff
  • discrepancies between the length of the day for reception, key stage 1 and key stage 2 classes and for nursery classes
  • opportunities for whole-school meetings where there is a discrepancy between the length of the day.

Full-time nursery teachers

Full-time teachers can be required to work for up to 1,265 hours in any academic year ('directed time'). These hours should be reasonably allocated over 195 days (190 days on which s/he may be required to teach pupils and 5 days on which s/he may only be required to perform other duties, ie training).

Directed time includes teaching, registration, assemblies, planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time, non-contact time, mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks (but not lunchtime) and school meetings with colleagues, parents or pupils. You should ensure that you receive a breakdown of your directed time and check that it does not exceed 1,265 hours.

For full-time teachers an increase in the nursery day would not result in an increase in your annual salary.

Part-time nursery teachers

Part-time nursery teachers should be paid pro-rata to their full-time colleagues and are also required to work for a proportion of the directed time of a full-time teacher. You can find out more about part-time pay rates here.

Nursery support staff

While there are no nationally agreed provisions for support staff, any increase in working time must result in a commensurate increase in pay. Any changes to the pattern of work must be agreed with you following consultation.

Further advice

If your nursery/school is considering extending the nursery day then please contact your branch secretary for assistance. For branch secretary contact details, see the bottom right-hand side of this page.

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