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Majority of parents of three- and four-year-olds received funded places in 2014 - 15

Nine out of ten parents of three- and four-year-olds received government funded early education in 2014 - 15, according to the government’s Childcare and early years survey of parents released this week.

For the first time, the government also measured the uptake of the entitlement among two-year-olds, which was found to be 54%.

Neil Leitch, Pre-school Learning Alliance CEO, welcomed the report and said that it affirms the integral part that early years plays in the UK’s social, economic and cultural fabric. However, he questioned why the number of eligible two-year-olds taking up government funded places was not higher, and suggested that providers in areas of deprivation are struggling to meet the needs of parents because they cannot afford to.

The report also highlighted that the use of free entitlement rose by income with only 80% of families earning below £10,000 per year receiving it, compared to 94% of families earning £45,000 or more.

Neil also highlighted a number of other challenges the results presented, both to the sector and the government. “Although the majority of parents (64%) rated the overall quality of local childcare provision as very or fairly good, we would have expected this figure to be higher as Ofsted rates 81% of settings as ‘good’ or outstanding,” he said. 

Ofsted had cited reputation as one of the main things that parents consider when choosing a childcare provider, but Neil said that the Alliance is constantly seeing providers’ hanging in the balance whilst they await re-inspection from Ofsted. “With 74% of parents who use full daycare saying that Ofsted grades influence their choice of provider, we would urge the government to address the issue of paid for inspections as a matter of priority.”