Survey reveals uncertainty around incoming free childcare changes

Busy Bees Nursery staff and children celebrating the Queen's 90th birthday. Isla and Wilf, both two-

Busy Bees Nursery staff and children celebrating the Queen's 90th birthday. Isla and Wilf, both two-years-old. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A survey has suggested that more than half of councils do not know whether they will have enough childcare available when plans to double the free hours available to pre-schoolders come into force.

Under the changes this September, three and four-year-olds in England will be entitled to 30 free hours of childcare a week during term time - twice the amount they currently receive.

A new poll of local authorities in England - conducted by the Family and Childcare Trust - has found that 54pc of those questioned said they did not know if they would have enough places available for youngsters.

A third, 33pc, said there would be sufficient places, while 13pc confirmed there would not.

The survey also found:

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• More than two thirds, 67pc, said they thought some childcare providers would not offer the entitlement

• 56pc believe the change will see families able to work more flexibly

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• 66pc said the reform make no difference on the quality of early education

• Just under half, 44pc, said there could be 'reduced financial sustainability' of childcare providers

• 63pc said they were unsure if it would lead to higher costs for children aged two and under

The report says: 'There was a lack of certainty about the availability of the 30-hour offer for eligible families.

'Only a third of local authorities expect there to be enough childcare available for three and four year olds, with just over half not yet knowing whether or not there would be enough.

'A clear majority of local authorities expect some settings not to offer the 30 hour entitlement - presumably because it would not make financial sense for them to do so.

'Until the policy has been introduced in full, it is difficult to predict how many settings this will apply to: it is likely that the pattern will vary in different parts of the country based on the comparative price paid for funded and non-funded places, and settings' ability to attract parents without offering the free entitlement.

'Despite this uncertainty, the majority of respondents believe that the 30 hour entitlement will enable more families to access childcare which meets their needs.'

• What are your experiences with early years education? Have you struggled to find childcare? Leave your experiences in the comments below or email

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