Funded two years olds attending early years settings – and in particular childminder settings   1 comment

A while ago there was some headline grabbing figures from the Government about the number of two year children that were accessing the funding for free early education place of up to 15 hours

You can read it here for yourself Click to go to article

However here are the highlights from the article

  • Around 92,000 of the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds are now receiving up to 15 hours a week of fully funded childcare – just weeks after free pre-school education for these children was introduced.
  • The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Education and Childcare Minister, Elizabeth Truss, welcomed today’s figures which show that after just 1 month of this year’s scheme being launched, an estimated 70% of the identified 130,000 children are already benefitting from the scheme – a huge increase on the 20,000 children accessing free early education in 2010.
  • The government wants to see more eligible 2-year-olds in high-quality early education, and has committed to providing funding for 130,000 2-year-olds to access free places from September this year – increasing to 260,000 from next September. This offer is backed up by over half a billion pounds of government funding this year, rising to £760 million in 2014 to 2015.
  • This funding has meant that just 1 month in, 92,000 eligible 2-year-olds are already benefiting from support and learning that can help shape their future.

It all sounds great doesn’t it and I certainly do not want to suggest that the funding for 2 year olds is a ‘bad thing’ – although I do have questions about what is an appropriate setting for a two year old to attend, and will come back to this issue a bit later on in this blog

But first I want to question the Governments statement about 92,000 two years accessing the funding in just FOUR weeks. I was rather sceptical that this had been achieved – not the number of two years but the time scale. This is because I had been involved in the pilot for the two year old funding and I know it takes a while for parents to a) establish their child is eligible, b) find a suitable setting with the vacancy they required – so the days and hours that fitted their requirements c) for the funding to be confirmed and d) for the child to take up the place. In my opinion this was a lot to achieve in four weeks.

So together with a number of others we requested some information under  Freedom of Information – in total 7 areas across the country, so not a huge number and therefore this small scale research can only be seen as a ‘snap shot’ but to me the information received was very interesting.

I have to make it clear that although the information was supplied – there were restrictions on how it could be shared – in particular around identifying the areas and some other area specific information. Therefore the information here is just a summary and where numbers of children are stated , the areas are not.

All the areas that information was requested from responded in slightly different ways to the same questions, making it difficult to produce any tables of information, however it is clear that in these areas that the two year olds were not all ‘new’

One area said they had funded 780 children since September 13 BUT 590 of them were continuing – in other words were already funded prior to Sept.

One area said they were funding  507 from September BUT 414 two year olds were already accessing the funding the previous term.

One area had an impressive number of two year olds accessing the funding in September 13 – 1322 in fact BUT 867 had been funded in the previous term and some of those 867 children were still accessing funding – so part of the total 1322 accessing funding now.

And although most areas did not hold information about how many funded two year olds were already attending an early years setting prior to the funding (and so parents paying) one area did have the information – of the 592 children accessing the funding in Sept 13 – 209 were attending a early years setting prior to funding becoming available.

So although as I have already made clear this is only a snap shot – it is very clear that not all of the stated 92,000 two year olds accessing the funding have done so within a four week period. Many of them were already accessing the funding under the pilot scheme and were continuing to access the funding from September 13, and furthermore some of them were already accessing early education place at a setting paid for by their parents, which means although good news for those parents, the children will not be benefiting any more than they already were.

I do not understand why the Government feel the need to be ‘creative’ or less than 100% honest about such things – why not just tell the truth rather than issue headline grabbing’  figures?

I hope that someone with more available time than myself will carry out some fact finding across the whole country so that the true figures about the take up and impact of two year old funding can be examined. My gut feeling is that quite a lot of these two year olds were already attending early years settings – or would have started to attend anyway due to parents requirements for childcare, and that some of the countries two year olds that could be accessing this funding still are not doing so – in fact  by the Governments own figures around  40,000 of them were not accessing the funding in September 13 – it is my opinion that those not accessing the funding are the ones who do not (or would not attend)  attend a early years setting already – and the ones who could benefit most.

However, as a registered childminder, there is a much more concerning factor revealed by the Freedom of Information requests – that is the take up of places at a childminding setting.

Despite the fact that there has been a lot of research that shows for two year olds a home based setting is the most appropriate and that the outcomes for the children attending a home based setting are excellent both in the short term and in the long term – very few of the funded two year olds attend a childminder setting – in fact the numbers are both disappointing and shocking.

From the information provided by the 7 areas in this limited study, in September 13, –  6,559 two year olds had a funded place at a early years setting – of  these just 276 were attending a childminding setting – that is under 5% – meaning just over 95% attend a group setting. I not suggesting that the children attending a group setting are not receiving high quality care and education, but I am questioning if it is acknowledge – even by the Government – that a home based setting is most appropriate for a two year old – why so few of them are accessing their funding in one?

I accept that more research needs to be carried out and hope that someone is doing this already, or will consider doing so as a result of this snap shot

I think I have raised more questions than I had before embarking on this snap shot of two year old funding, but what is clear is that the Government are not providing full information about the take up or the impact of the two year old funding.

Posted December 13, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “Funded two years olds attending early years settings – and in particular childminder settings

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