Why Council’s nursery cuts are unfair and inequitable
The Labour Cabinet are currently consulting on cuts to nursery education. The proposals were originally put forward last year, but a judicial review found that the decision was unlawfully taken and so the plans could not go ahead. Now they are back on the table.
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats have argued from the beginning against the proposals and claim that they will lead to more inequality.
Councillor Mike Powell says
"It is not acceptable that an Equality Impact Assessment will only be produced after the consultation stage when it cannot be taken into account by the public when making their views known. The EIA produced following the last time this was consulted upon basically said in each instance that there would be issues for some sectors of the community but that they were not enough to matter.
"This was despite the fact that the proposals obviously have an impact on the most vulnerable sectors of our communities.
"Children living in poverty will be disproportionately hit as they will lose out not only on education and the social benefits that being in school full time brings but may be losing out on the only hot, nutritious meal they have during the day.
"Women will be unfairly hit, as they are the ones statistically more likely to be in lower paid or part time jobs which they will have to give up if they cannot find or afford childcare. Also the large proportion of Nursery school teachers and teaching assistants who stand to lose their jobs are female.
"Welsh medium and faith schools will be particularly badly hit by proposals to stop home to school transport. There is every likelihood that parents may decide to send their children to English medium schools instead as they are more easily accessible. This will have an adverse effect on the Council's own stated aims to promote Welsh medium education, and those of the Welsh Labour Government.
"The dearth of Welsh medium childcare and playgroup provision will mean that again more children will end up having to access English medium provision. This will affect their ability to become fully bilingual from an early age. Language learning is much easier at an early age, and full time education from an early age with every other consultation on Council cuts includes the line that:
'We will endeavour where possible to test any service change / service reduction or alternate service delivery proposals against the following guiding principles:
Services are as equitable as possible across Rhondda Cynon Taf.'
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats say that these proposals will certainly not see an equitable provision across the county. This despite the statement from the last EIA which states
'The current arrangements across Rhondda Cynon Taf have not been equitable, due to the mixed admission arrangements. This proposal promotes equality as it will introduce a consistent approach for children living in the County Borough.'
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager Karen Roberts said
"This is clearly not the case as the proposals do not in any way lay down a solid framework which would avoid any variation. In fact the report advocates quite the opposite. There is a suggestion that schools could provide full time provision or some sort of wrap around care. This may be the case in some instances, but others would not have the facilities or want to take on the responsibility. The report says that this will be up to individual schools to decide, that if they wish they can use money from elsewhere in their budget to continue to provide full time nursery education.
"An equitable provision cannot be achieved if schools are to be allowed to choose whether or not to provide extra services. If the Cabinet is determined to press ahead with cutting the provision to part time then it should be the case that such provision is imposed across RCT.
"In the Rhondda and Tonyrefail there are proposals for school closures and reorganisation currently out to consultation. Quite apart from the fact that these proposals in themselves seek to set up a system that is totally unfair and inequitable the nursery cuts are also likely to have an impact.
"The proposal in the Rhondda will take several infant schools out of their immediate community and place them in locations which are far less accessible. Parents who have, for instance, a three and a five year old would have to take both children in the morning, return to fetch the youngest at 12 o'clock, then travel back with the three year old to fetch the older child at 3 o'clock.
"Not all parents have transport and would find this too difficult. These parents may decide not to take up the offer of part time education again putting those children at a disadvantage."