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Government publishes parents' survey on childcare and early years provision in England

The Department for Education has published the latest childcare and early years survey of parents in England. This biennial survey has been running for ten years, and looks at parents' use, views and experience of childcare and early years provision. The latest survey was carried out by Ipsos MORI between January and August 2017. A total of 5,693 parents in England with children aged 0 to 14 were interviewed face-to-face for the study. Key findings are summarised below.

Overall childcare use

  • A majority of families in England (79%)  use some form of childcare, with 66% using formal childcare, and 36% using informal childcare. The use of informal childcare has fallen four points since the last survey in 2014-15 due to lower take-up among fmailies with school-age children.
  • The proportion of families using breakfast clubs has doubled since 2010-11, from 4% to 8%, and there has also been a rise in the number of families using after-school clubs (from 35% to 38%) and day nurseries (from 8% to 10%).
  • Pre-school children spend on average 17 hours per week in formal childcare. For school-age children, the figure is 3.3 hours per week.
  • When choosing a formal childcare provider for pre-school children, the most common factors were the providers' convenience (64%); reputation (61%); quality of care given (53%); and the opportunity for the child to mix with other children (53%).

Availability and quality of local childcare

  • Parents were most likely to receive information about childcare via word of mouth from friends and family (42%) or from school (33%).
  • Around two in five parents (42%) felt the number of local childcare places was 'about right', a fall of four points since 2014-15.
  • One in five parents (21%) reported problems with finding childcare flexible enough to meet their needs, though well over a third (37%) indicated that they did not have problems.
  • Most parents (62%) felt the quality of local childcare was very or fairly good.
  • According to parents, the most important factors in delivering high quality childcare and early education were the provision of activities that encourage children to socialise together (65%); staff members having a small number of children to look after (53%); and children beginning to learn writing, reading and maths (45%).

Affordability of local childcare

  • Two in five parents (39%) rated the affordability of local childcare as very or fairly good, while 34% rated it as very of fairly poor.
  • Just over half of parents who paid for childcare (52%) said it was easy or very easy to meet their childcare costs, with one in five (21%) finding it difficult or very difficult.

Mothers, work and childcare

  • A majority of mothers (68%) reported that they were in work, up two points since the last survey.
  • Half of non-working mothers said if they could arrange good quality, convenient, reliable and affordable childcare, they would prefer to work.

Childcare entitlements

  • The overwhelming majority of parents accessing the early years entitlement (91%) were satisfied with the times they were able to use these hours.
  • Most parents with a child aged three or four (71%) were aware of the 30 hour free childcare policy.
  • A majority of parents of three-and four-year-olds (53%) said they would be likely to use the full 30 hours, with most (79%) saying they would use more than 15 hours a week.
  • More than half of parents (54%) said they would consider using more than one provider if their current provider could not offer the additional hours at suitable times.
  • A majority of parents (79%) were unaware of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme.