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Is 30 hours free childcare deliverable?

date August 14, 2015

So we’re heading towards the middle of August already, if only someone would tell the UK weather that! But a bit of rain hasn’t dampened our resolve to continue exploring the topic of 30 hours free childcare, its benefits, challenges and the overall impact it will have on all the stakeholders in early years education, from managers and practitioners to parents.
Since our blog on 30 hours and the National Living Wage (NLW) last week, the NDNA has released results from its related survey, confirming our worst fears about the huge challenge the NLW presents to the early years childcare sector.
In case you missed it, key findings included:
– Payrolls will rise by an average of 10 per cent from April 2016 and by 35 per cent from April 2020.
– Sixty-two per cent of the workforce is currently paid less than £7.20 an hour (NLW rate from April).
– Two-thirds of employees earning less than this are over 25 and will be legally entitled to the NLW from April.
– Fifty-eight per cent of nurseries plan to recruit younger staff, use tighter ratios or employ fewer supernumerary staff, which could affect quality.
As we feared, the survey also concluded nurseries would be forced to pass on fee increases to parents to the tune of 7-10%.
Meanwhile, at NurseryBook HQ, we’ve been looking at what percentage of nurseries offer funded places. Data available on the Government’s statistics department site suggests 96% of the 3-4 year old population in England was successfully receiving its 15 funded hours at the beginning of 2015. And that 43,796 of all early years childcare settings (including private and voluntary settings, childminders, maintained nursery and state-funded primary schools) were offering funded places to children in that age bracket.
This seems to be a huge change from just a year earlier, as we know from data released under the Freedom of Information Act in 2014, and reported in The Guardian at the time, that 44% of Local Authorities didn’t have enough places, with the London Borough of Lambeth reporting a waiting list of over 1000. We also know from the same report that just 75% of the 25,547 nurseries in England at the time were offering funded places to 3-4 year olds. But we don’t know whether this percentage has increased (though the overall provision of places has). Nor is it clear how many funded places were available at each setting, the Ofsted rating of these settings or their geographic spread.
Overall, more questions remain than there are answers. The Government’s funding review, focused on effective implementation and delivery of 30 hours childcare, closed on 10th August this week, so we, and the rest of the sector, wait for news on how the Government plans to fund these extra hours with baited breath.