Sector survey finds settings fear two-year-old funding shortfall

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The Pre-School Learning Alliance has launched an online survey of early years providers to canvass their views on the free entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

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The Alliance wants feedback from nurseries and pre-schools about whether they intend to take part in the extension of the free entitlement.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said that many providers in the sector have reservations about whether the level of funding for two-year-olds will cover the costs of offering the free places, given longstanding problems with under-funding for three-and four-year-old places.

It is understood that a shortage of 40,000 places for the initial rollout of the scheme from September 2013 has been predicted by DfE officials.

Twenty per cent of two-year-olds in England will be entitled to a free nursery place for 15 hours a week from 2013, increasing to 40 per cent from 2014-15.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that providers are not likely to make capital investment in increasing the size of settings to cater for increased numbers of two-year-old children.

There are also concerns about the extra cost of supporting two-year-old places, given that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to need more support.

The survey asks for views on whether providers intend to become involved with the free entitlement, and if so, whether they would be prepared to invest capital to increase capacity for two-year-olds.

As Nursery World went to press, around 230 responses to the survey had been received.

Mr Leitch said, 'Early indications are that the vast majority feel that the entitlement figure for threeand four-year-olds is wholly inadequate, which supports the findings of the recent National Audit Office report.

'Providers are concerned that the failure by successive governments to address concerns over the funding will simply transfer across to the offer for two-year-olds.'

He added, 'Settings appear to suggest that they will fill capacity by taking two-year-old children under the entitlement extension, but seem uncertain and reluctant to become involved in capital investment.'

The Alliance is keen to hear the views of all early years settings.

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