Justine Greening, the new education secretary, confirmed today in a written statement to parliament, that the implementation will happen from 2018-19, as further consultation is needed.
Ministerial commitments to a start of 2017-18 had been made as recently as this week, but Ms Greening said further consultation was needed to ensure the Government gets its ‘approach right’.
Explaining the timetable shift, she described the moves as a ‘once in a generation opportunity for an historic change’.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, expressed concern at the likely impact on the early years’ funding changes.
He said, ‘We are extremely concerned about the potential implications of this delay on the introduction of the promised national early years funding formula.
'With the full rollout 30-hour “free childcare” offer currently scheduled for next September, timings are already extremely tight to have a completely new early years funding model in place in time, as was promised.
‘The fact that the government has now decided to postpone the introduction of a new schools funding formula, despite the fact that the consultation process on this formula had already started, clearly doesn’t bode well for the introduction of a national early years funding formula, for which no consultation has yet been published.
‘It is disappointing that, while today’s announcement referenced plans for schools and high needs funding, there was little mention of the early years.
‘To have any chance of being able to deliver the 30-hour offer, both providers and local authorities need time to prepare, and yet as it stands, we have no early years minister, no information on the promised funding reform and no indication of when any information on either will be available.
‘It is vital that the Department for Education provides an update on this as a matter of urgency, and we look forward to hearing from them shortly.’
Deborah Lawson, general secretary of education professionals’ union Voice, said, ‘This delay is disappointing, but it is essential to get the outcome right.
‘We welcome the opportunity for full and thorough consultation on a new formula.
‘Schools must have the capacity to deal with fluctuations in funding resulting from the introduction of the formula.’
Ms Lawson said a funding increase was needed as a matter of urgency, adding, ‘We look forward to the promised plans for a national funding formula for early years.'
Kate Fitch, head of public policy for deafblind charity Sense, welcomed the effort to ensure the formula is delivered correctly, but said the charity was 'worried' that it meant early years funding being pushed back as well.
'Early education and play are incredibly important for children with complex needs, however all too often disabled children are missing out on the opportunities they need because of insufficient funding,' she added.
'The early years sector is facing huge uncertainty ahead of the new childcare entitlement roll out and many are worried that the current money available is simply not enough to match the Government’s ambitions or commitments.
'An underfunded early years system will place significant pressure on providers and could result in fewer places for disabled children and further restrictions to opportunities to access early education and play.
'The Government has promised to address these issues and deliver a fairer system as part of its National Funding Formula for Early Years and it is imperative that no time is wasted in delivering this.'