Eight ‘early implementer’ local authorities signed up for the trial run, currently ongoing, and there had previously been concern that the results might be kept under wraps.
But in a written response to a parliamentary question, early years minister Caroline Dinenage confirmed the timetable includes a ‘national findings event’ in the spring, and publication of formal findings in July.
Ms Dinenage also revealed that since the launch in September this year, at least one of the areas appears to have reported an encouraging result in terms of take-up.
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, asked for the latest feedback from the eight schemes and any indication regarding capacity of settings to offer the entitlement.
The minister highlighted how up to 5,000 working families would benefit during the early implementation phase, which is trialling a range of approaches including catering for special educational needs, and flexible hours.
Ms Dinenage added, ‘In York, where there are no limits on the number of families who can benefit, around 83 per cent of eligible families are already receiving 30 hours free childcare, just six weeks after the launch of early implementation.
‘The department has commissioned an independent evaluation of early implementation of the 30 hours free childcare offer.
‘The evaluation is focusing on generating learning that can be used by Early Implementers and all local authorities ahead of national rollout in September 2017.
‘There will be a national findings event in the spring next year, and a formal evaluation report will be published in July 2017.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed the news that the findings will be made public, but questioned the effectiveness of doing so during the summer holidays.
Mr Leitch added that he and colleagues ‘remain unconvinced’ that the pilots will be able to inform the full rollout ‘in any meaningful way’ because they may not be representative of the real picture.
‘Not only are the funding rates being used for the trial different from those that will be used from September next year, but in many areas, extra restrictions have been placed on eligibility for the trial, meaning that the ability of the sector to cope with the demand for additional hours is not being properly tested,’ he said.
‘It achieves nothing to paint a false picture of the impact that the 30-hour offer will have on the early years sector, and so we would urge the government to reassess its approach to the pilots and ensure that they are a true reflection of what the 30-hour scheme will look like when it’s rolled out in full.’
- Caroline Dinenage will be talking about the progress of the 30 hours programme at the Nursery World Business Summit on Tuesday 8 November, and four of the early implementer councils - York, Wigan, Northumberland and Hertfordshire - will be presenting about their experiences. Go to www.nurserybusiness-summit.com