The latest Department for Education figures on ‘Provision for children under five years of age’ show that 1,035,870 of three and four-year-olds taking up their free childcare place, the equivalent of 85 per cent, attend settings rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. This is up from 988,980 in 2014.
According to the statistics, a record number of three- and four-year-olds are benefiting from the 15 hours of free childcare a week. As of January 2015 a total of 1.3 million three- and four-year-olds were taking up their place (99 per cent of four-year-olds and 94 per cent of three-year-olds). This is an increase of 21,980 on the previous year.
The percentage of eligible two-year-olds taking up their place in January 2015 had only reached 56 per cent, however.
Of the 157,040 eligible two-year-olds taking up the offer, 85 per cent attend good and outstanding settings. Of these, 50 per cent are in settings with staff with EYP or QTS, and 45 per cent had such staff working directly with them.
The majority of places, 149,730, are taken up at private and voluntary settings. More than 3,400 have taken-up their place at primary schools with nursery classes and 2,930 in nursery schools.
The figures reveal that an additional 6,580 providers, including nurseries, schools and childminders, started taking two-year-olds for the first time this year.
Childcare minister Sam Gyimah said, ‘It’s fantastic that not only are more parents accessing free childcare, but more places are in top-quality settings.
‘I’m delighted that we are extending this popular offer and doubling the number of free hours of high-quality childcare to working parents.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘High-quality early education and care is known to have a significant positive impact on children’s long-term learning and development, and so it is very positive to see such a continued high take-up of free entitlement places.
‘With the planned extension of the free entitlement scheme to 30 hours a week for eligible three- and four-year-olds set to begin in just over a year, it is now vital that Government ensures that early years providers are adequately supported to deliver free entitlement places – something which can only be achieved through sufficient funding.’
James Hempsall, director of Hempsall’s, said, ‘The statistics show the sector is responding to the needs of funded two-year-olds, with exciting signs of growth and readiness to offer more places from September.’