The study, which is the first national survey of early years and childcare providers since the rollout across England in September 2017, shows that 90 per cent of group providers are offering the extended entitlement, however a third of school nurseries and just under a quarter of childminders are not.
Carried out by NatCen on behalf of the Department for Education and in collaboration with Frontier Economics, the report uses data from the Survey of Childcare and Early Years providers (SCEYP) 2018, which was undertaken in spring 2018 and received responses from 5,141 group-based PVI providers, 968 school nurseries (including maintained nursery schools) and 861 childminders.
All statistics and analysis were weighted to represent a national picture of early years settings in England.
The survey findings show that among providers that had three- and four-year-olds registered with the setting, 90 per cent of group-based providers, 67 per cent of school nurseries (including maintained nursery schools) and 77 per cent of childminders were offering the 30 hours of funded childcare.
Of those, the majority had children taking up the offer at the time of the survey.
When scaling up the figures, it suggests that 18,360 group-based providers, 5,410 school nurseries and 16,720 childminders were delivering the extended entitlement last spring – slightly higher than the numbers reported in the early years and spring school censuses.
Providers offering disadvantaged two-year-old places and signed up to Tax-Free Childcare were more likely to be offering the 30 hours.
The report’s authors note that they did not evaluate the impact of the 30 hours on providers. Nor did they examine the financial effects on providers, such as changes to their income and profitability.
Providers in London who took part in the survey were less likely to offer the 30 hours.
Group-based providers in the East Midlands and in urban areas generally were most likely to offer the 30 hours throughout the year, and those in the East of England and in rural areas overall were least likely to.
Characteristics of settings
The report finds that settings in the 20 per cent most deprived areas and settings run by local authorities were less likely to offer the 30 hours. The latter could be due to less demand for places because fewer parents are eligible, suggest the report’s authors.
Larger settings, those that open for longer during the day and over the year and settings with spare capacity were more likely to be offering the 30 hours.
Maintained nursery schools were more likely to be taking part in the extended offer than other types of schools.
Just under half of providers were offering the extended hours throughout the year.
Of the group-based providers that were open for more than 39 weeks a year, 80 per cent offered the extended hours over a year.
Childminders were most flexible, 92 per cent did not impose any restrictions on parents, group-based providers were less flexible, 73 per cent did not have restrictions.
Group-based providers that were part of a chain were more likely to offer the 30 hours throughout the year, but less likely to be flexible in terms of session timings, compared to standalone settings.
School nurseries were most likely to restrict when the hours could be used. Almost all, offered the 30 hours during term-time only.
Dr Svetlana Speight, research director at the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), said, ‘Our findings show that engagement with the 30 hours is high across all providers. Yet it’s also clear that there are marked regional differences, with group-based providers and childminders in London being not as engaged with the policy as those in other parts of England.
'Our report also shows clear differences by provider type, suggesting that group-based providers might be finding it easier to accommodate the 30 hours than school nurseries. These findings will support the Department for Education as they continue working with the early years sector on supporting their delivery of the 30 hours policy for working families.’
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi added, ‘We are investing more in childcare than ever before and improving the support available to families with young children so they can spend less on childcare and balance work with their family lives. So it’s great to see that so many nurseries, preschools and childminders are offering parents 30 hours free childcare, and even better to see so many children getting the benefits of the offer. We are spending around £3.5 billion to deliver our early education offers this year alone – this includes the 30 hours offer, but also our offer of 15 hours for all three- and four-year-olds and for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'This latest research shows how important the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nursery sector is to the Government’s 30 hours policy. However these figures are not the full picture.
'They clearly show that PVI nurseries are the most likely to offer these places and have the year-round flexibility that most parents need.
'However, we know that to make this policy work, many nurseries are having to limit the number of places they can offer, limit the timings of sessions they can offer and make charges to parents for additional services.
'Given the importance of these providers the Government should be treating them with the respect they deserve. Keeping funding flat as costs continually rise means an already underfunded sector is being hit even harder. Unless funding is properly addressed more and more nurseries will be forced to close, having a devastating effect on the children in their care, the parents who rely on them and the staff and owners.'
PACEY’s Policy and Research Manager, Susanna Kalitowski, said, 'Childminders are more likely to be delivering Government-funded places than ever before, but they are still less likely than group-based providers to be doing so – and remain a great untapped source of places.
'Take-up of 30 hours is likely to increase in the coming years, and the barriers preventing childminders from delivering places must be addressed by Government and local authorities to ensure families have a choice of high-quality, flexible funded places'.