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DfE data shows huge decline in early years attendance

By Rachel LawlerToddlers playing nurseries funding

New statistics from the Department for Education show a dramatic fall in the number of children attending early years settings since the start of the spring term.

According to the figures, the number of children taking up an early years place in England was at 37% of normal term-time rates and just 52% of what the government would normally expect at this time of year.

As part of the #ProtectEarlyYears campaign the Alliance, alongside PACEY and NDNA, is calling on the government to:

  • reinstate early entitlement funding support for settings who have been forced to close or have seen a fall in the demand for funded places
  • introduce targeted funding for providers reliant on private income who have suffered from falls in parental demand

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "While we of course understand why many parents have taken the decision to keep their children at home, the failure of government to provide adequate financial support to early years providers means that this huge reduction in childcare demand is putting many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country at serious risk of permanent closure.

"As it stands, early years settings are facing a complete postcode lottery, with some councils continuing to provide funding for children who aren't currently taking up their childcare place, and others refusing to do so. Add to this the fact that providers are also losing private parental fees at an alarming rate, and it's clear that, without help, many in the sector will simply not be able to remain afloat for much longer.

"Given that the government's 'stay at home' order is likely to remain in place for several weeks, it is absolutely critical that the Department for Education and Treasury stop dragging their feet on this and commit to providing the temporary financial support that providers need to make it through this incredibly difficult period: that means the immediate reinstatement of early entitlement funding at pre-Covid levels as well as emergency funding for providers facing a loss of private income.

"The government keeps saying how important a role the early year plays, but what the sector needs is urgent action, not empty rhetoric."