NAHT responds to Education Committee comments on government approach to early years education
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Early years is the most crucial phase of education. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help. It is therefore obvious that the most cost-effective way to improve educational outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is by investing in early years education.
“But we know that it is not just any early years experience that matters. Early years provision needs to be of high quality, led by qualified early years professionals, to have a positive and lasting impact on children’s outcomes. This comes at a cost.
“Unfortunately, the government’s funding to early years providers for the 30 free hours does not allow for this quality. The money received is insufficient to cover costs. The DfE’s own data last year showed 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.
“Worryingly, there is also some evidence that the 30 free hours appears to be having a detrimental impact on children from deprived backgrounds. Only working families are eligible for 30 free hours – children from non-working families only qualify for 15. An NAHT survey of early years providers revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of respondents felt that the 30 hours offer had displaced more disadvantaged three and four year olds only entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. Help is not reaching the families that most need it, and children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds could risk being pushed aside."
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