Alliance comments on Conservative pledge to extend free childcare offer

14th April 2015

Commenting on the Conservative pledge to extend the free early education entitlement offer for three- and four-year-old to 30 hours a week, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said:

“Although in theory any steps taken to improve the availability of childcare are positive, we would seriously question how feasible this pledge is in practice.

“At the moment, government funding does not cover the cost of delivering 15 hours of childcare for three- and four-year olds, and so it has been left to providers and parents to make up the shortfall. It is difficult to see, therefore, how plans to double the current offer without addressing this historic under-funding can be implemented without leading to even higher childcare costs, or risking the sustainability of the sector altogether.

“It is important to remember that childcare is about more than enabling parents to return to work. The first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their long-term development - as such, it is vital that whoever is in government after May 7 is willing and able to provide the investment that providers need to be able to deliver affordable, sustainable and, crucially, high-quality early education and care.”

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Notes for editors

The Counting the cost study, commissioned by the Alliance and carried out by independent research agency Ceeda, found that, in 2013/14

  • The average hourly cost of providing a funded childcare place for a three or four-year-old was £4.53, compared to an average funding rate of £3.88 - a funding shortfall of 18%, rising to 21% when the cost of unpaid staff hours was taken into account.
  • The average hourly cost of providing a funded childcare place for a two-year-old was £5.97, compared to an average funding rate of £5.19 - a funding shortfall of 15%, rising to 18% when the cost of unpaid staff hours was taken into account

ABOUT THE ALLIANCE

  1. The Pre-school Learning Alliance is the largest voluntary sector provider of quality affordable childcare and education in England.
  2. Through direct provision and its membership of 14,000 nurseries, sessional pre-schools and parent and toddler groups, the Alliance supports over 800,000 children and their families in England. The Alliance also develops and runs family learning programmes, offers information and advice, runs acclaimed training and accreditation programmes and campaigns to influence early years policy and practice.
  3. For information about the Pre-school Learning Alliance, visit our website: www.pre-school.org.uk

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