The latest Department for Education survey of ‘Childcare and Early Years Providers in England 2016’, shows that 44,250 providers are planning to offer the 30-hours of funded childcare, compared with 54,900 delivering the current entitlement.
The research was carried out by by Kantar Public (formerly TNS BMRB). The survey is regularly carried out for the DfE.
The data is based upon 10,000 interviews with 'group-based providers' (nurseries), 'school-based providers' and childminders. It is unclear whether figures have been scaled up to reflect the whole of the childcare sector.
However, interviews were conducted between March and July 2016 before the new funding rates were announced and the 30-hour pilots started. As such, the Pre-School Learning Alliance has warned that the number of settings planning on opting out of the 30-hours could be much higher.
It shows that 14,000 nurseries plan to offer parents the 30 hours compared with 22,700 offering the current 15 hour childcare entitlement.
Of the 8,200 primary schools with nurseries carrying out the 15 hours, 3,900 said they planned to offer the 30 hours, while 50 fewer nursery schools providing the free hours said they would offer the extended entitlement.
The most common reasons providers in the survey gave for not delivering the 30 hours included - the funding rate not covering costs, a lack of space or staff capacity and not being open long enough.
However, childminders were slightly more likely to offer the extended hours, with 25,400 planning to offer the 30 hours, as opposed to 23,600 who currently offer the 15 hours.
This echoes research carried out by PACEY last year, which hinted that childminders may be feeling more upbeat about the 30 hours as the ‘newly introduced floor rate is close to the fees that they currently charge.’
The survey - which provides information on the main characteristics of childcare and early years provision in England - including capacity, future use of funded hours, staff qualifications and pay - also shows that a higher proportion of providers in the most deprived areas planned to offer the extended hours than those in the least deprived areas.
Providers that planned to offer the 30 hours were asked how they planned to accommodate this. The most common response among all providers was to use existing places that would normally not be taken-up, although a large proportion of schools with nurseries (43 per cent) said they would expand their provision.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘It’s significant that the Department for Education’s own statistics support what we have been saying for some time now – that without adequate funding, many early years providers will simply be unwilling to deliver the 30-hour offer.
‘What’s most alarming is that these figures were gathered at a time when many providers thought they would be receiving close to the average funding rate of £4.88 per hour. With final rates currently being confirmed across the country, and many providers discovering that they’ll be receiving significantly less, we would expect the number of settings opting out of the 30-hour offer to be even higher than these statistics suggest.
‘Even more concerning is the fact that Government has confirmed these funding rates will be frozen until 2020, despite significant likely increases in childcare business costs such as wages, rents/mortgages and business rates. This means that even those childcare providers who can somehow make the offer work this year are likely to struggle in the years to come, and so we are likely to see the number opting out of the scheme increasing over time.
‘With the Spring Budget just weeks away, we urge the DfE to rethink its stance on this issue. The Government has made a big promise to parents on childcare but, without adequate funding, it simply won’t be able to deliver it.’
A DfE spokesperson said, 'It’s great to see that the majority of providers intend to offer 30 hours childcare, backed up by our record investment of £6 billion per year in childcare by 2020. Since this survey was conducted, we have published our Early Years National Funding Formula, which will see increased hourly funding rates for the vast majority of providers and our Early Implementers are now successfully delivering the offer a year early.
'Alongside our record investment, we are creating a workforce strategy to help attract, retain and develop the very best staff so that we deliver childcare that is both affordable and high quality to families across the country.'