New figures reveal fall in funded place registrations during the pandemic
By Shannon Pite
New Department for Education statistics on childcare and early years reveal a marked decline in the number of children registered for early entitlement places.
Education provision: children under 5 years of age reveals that the number of eligible two-year-olds registered to take up 15-hour early entitlement places has fallen by 13% in 2021, while the number of three and four-year-olds registered to take up 15-hour places has fallen by 5%, with the DfE stating that take-up is now "the lowest since it was first measured in 2008". The number of three and four-year-olds registered to take up 30-hour places has also fallen by 5%.
The DfE stated that: "The decrease in the number and proportion of children registered to receive funded entitlements reflect the impact of COVID-19 uncertainty on supply (providers) and demand (parents) for early years provision in January 2021", adding that the declines may be due to parents delaying registering their children for places as a result of the pandemic.
Currently, funding for early years place is based on the number of children on roll at a setting, despite calls for the government to fund the sector based on pre-pandemic attendance levels.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said:
“Early years settings have been able to open to all children for over a year now and yet, as these figures clearly show, there is still a long way to go before the sector returns to anything like normal.
“With the number of children registered for early entitlement places falling sharply compared to previous years as a result of the pandemic, it’s clear that the government’s decision to fund early years providers based on the number of children on roll, rather than on pre-pandemic attendance levels, falls short of the support needed.
“Add to this the additional pressures of frequent closures due to self-isolation and illness, the additional costs associated with remaining Covid-secure and the long-running challenge of underfunding more generally, and it’s obvious that much more needs to be done to ensure that the early years sector is able to remain sustainable throughout the pandemic and beyond.”