Research commissioned by the Department for Education as part of its review into the cost of expanding free childcare to 30 hours is not held by the DfE, Nursery World can reveal, despite being quoted 50 times in a key report.
In response to a Freedom of Information request by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, the DfE has confirmed that research carried out by Deloitte for the review of childcare costs is not held by the department.
The alliance had asked for a copy of the research in the FOI filed on 12 January and received a delayed response on 10 March. Responses to FOI requests have a statutory deadline of 20 working days. The DfE did not give a reason for the delay.
The review’s analytical report published by the DfE cites research carried out by Deloitte multiple times. But the DfE response to the FOI request says, ‘I have established that the information you requested is not held by this Department.’
Asked for a comment on the letter, a DfE spokesperson told Nursery World, ‘The data is held by Deloitte, not us.’
The Review of childcare costs: the analytical report, published by the DfE last November, cites ‘surveys and interviews’ among childcare providers undertaken by Deloitte as the source of a range of data used in the review, including average cost hours, staff-to-child ratios and training costs.
The alliance has now filed a request for an internal review of the response and is voicing concerns about the DfE’s analysis of childcare delivery costs. It also points out that some data used in the analysis was several years out of date. It was taken from the Childcare Provider Finances Survey published in 2012, rather than the 2,000 responses submitted by childcare providers to the DfE’s call for evidence on costs, carried out last year.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We are at a loss to understand why the Department for Education doesn’t hold research that it has used and interpreted to inform its review into childcare delivery costs – and even more baffled as to why it took two months to ascertain this. Is the suggestion that they received the data from Deloitte, used it in the review, and then gave it back?
‘The Government has described its review as “the most comprehensive bottom-up analysis of the cost of childcare provision in the country”, and yet not only are we as a sector unable to scrutinise a key piece of underlying research, but we are now told that no-one at the DfE – the department responsible for ensuring that the 30-hour scheme is funded adequately – has this information at all.
‘Given the number of other concerns we have about this report – such as the use of 2012 data for key information like wages, rents and utility costs, and the unrealistic assumption that childcare providers will work to statutory ratio limits – it’s now clear that this review is an unacceptably poor foundation on which to base critical funding decisions, decisions that will determine whether the 30-hour scheme will succeed or fail.’