Responding to the publication of a report from the Department for Education evaluating the first year of the national rollout of 30 hours free childcare, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The DfE’s report reflects many of the findings of our own report into the 30 hours childcare promise earlier this year. The 30 hours free childcare scheme is an excellent idea and one that providers want to see work. But it is simply unsustainable without further investment from the government.
“The DfE’s report shows that the rollout of 30 hours free childcare has moved 17% of providers from a position of making a profit to only just breaking even, and an even more worrying further 8% from breaking even to reporting a loss. This proves that the level of funding provided by the government for the free 30-hour places is not sufficient.
“The government should be very concerned that a full quarter of childcare providers are in a potentially precarious financial position. The 8% of providers making a loss cannot keep going for very long – can we really afford to lose nearly 1 in 10 providers? That would decimate the number of childcare places available.
“While the extra free childcare is a boost to working parents, it is not truly free. 32% of the providers the DfE analysed have increased fees for extra parent-paid hours or introduced additional charges for extras like milk and nappies to make ends meet. Parents only using their free hours will be confused to find they are still being asked to make ‘contributions’. And parents who need wraparound provision will not find their costs dropping by anything like 30 hours. There is also a note of concern over the complexities of the registration process, with a three-monthly re-confirmation.
“The 30 hours free childcare pledge is a real move in the right direction from government, recognising the vital importance of early education, and freeing parents to work more or undertake training and education. But providers cannot continue to deliver the promise without more money.”
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