Alliance comments on Lib Dem plans to extend free childcare schemes

20th February 2015

Commenting on Liberal Democrat plans to extend the free early education entitlement schemes, announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at a Pre-school Learning Alliance early years conference, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said:

“Research has shown that high-quality early education has a significant positive impact on children’s long-term learning and development. As such, we fully support the motivations behind proposals to extend the current free entitlement scheme and ensure that as many children as possible have access to early education and care.

“However, if these plans are to stand any chance of working in practice, they simply must be adequately funded. Independent research commissioned by the Alliance has shown that government funding for the existing free entitlement schemes for two-, three- and four-year-olds only covers the cost of four out of every five children accessing places. This has left many childcare providers struggling to stay afloat and, in some cases, forced to increase their fees for additional paid-for hours, leaving parents facing rising childcare costs.

“It is vital, therefore, that any steps to extend existing offers are only taken if those in power can ensure that the initiative will be adequately funded. Anything less will simply exacerbate the existing problem even further. As such, we hope that all political parties will actively engage with the sector to ensure that any childcare pledges made in the run-up to the election are workable and achievable in the long term.”

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Notes for editors

  • Speaking at the Pre-school Learning Alliance early years conference, ‘Working together to deliver the early years agenda’, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg outlined Liberal Democrat plans to:

- extend the existing 15 hours for 38 weeks a year to all two year olds. As of September 2014, 40% of two year olds are entitled to this free childcare. - extend the 15 hours for 38 weeks a year to all children between the ages of 9 and 24 months where both parents work (or where the parent works in a single parent family). - increase the offering to 20 hours per week for 38 weeks a year for all children between the ages of 2 and 4 years, and to all children between the ages of 9 and 24 months where both parents work

  • The Counting the cost study, which was commissioned by the Alliance and conducted by independent research consultancy Ceeda, tracked the costs of delivering more than 180,000 hours of early years education and childcare for 5,635 children in randomly selected nurseries and pre-schools in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector. It found that funding for the free entitlement schemes only cover the cost of delivering places to four out of every five children, on average.


  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:

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