‘Location, location, location’ was cited several times at Nursery World’s recent Business Summit when discussing nursery sustainability and success.
The implementation of the 30 hours programme, its disproportionate benefits to better-off parents, and its underfunding are all leading to smaller settings (particularly in disadvantaged areas) exiting the sector and larger providers deciding that running nurseries in certain areas is not viable.
This is borne out by our exclusive FOI investigation published in this issue. We asked local authorities about whether they had seen a net rise or fall in the number of settings in their area. There was a fairly even split, with indications that in some areas nursery numbers are being hit, while others are seeing quite significant increases.
Those councils who responded about the number of childcare places had not tended to see large falls, even when the number of providers had decreased, indicating that bigger nurseries are proliferating and thriving. But it seems likely that some areas within local authorities will start to suffer shortages of provision.
We will be monitoring these trends to see if they continue and deepen.
This latest research ties in with our other recent FOI investigation, which found that free childcare schemes for disadvantaged children were being scrapped because of the restrictions of the Early Years National Funding Formula and the 30 hours offer.
Lucy Powell MP raised the findings of our investigation with the Education Secretary Damian Hinds in Parliament, and has sent them to the Education Select Committee, so we hope that our work will help to bring about change.
However, there are worrying signs that we are heading towards a two-tier system, with less advantaged children missing out on much-needed high-quality early education and childcare.