The Department for Education (DfE) has published a report from the Children’s Services Omnibus, which explores senior local authority (LA) and Children’s Services Trust leaders’ perceptions on, and activities relating to, a range of policy areas. These included early years and childcare provision in authorities, as well as children’s social care and services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Around a third of LAs answered questions on early years and childcare. The responses reveal the scale of the challenge of increasing take-up of the two-year-old offer, and the impact of 30 hours on the other entitlements.
Key findings related to early years and childcare provision:
- Local Authorities were asked about actions they had taken to promote funded early education entitlements for disadvantaged 2 year-olds during the last year. All of the responding LAs had supported the communication and provision of information to parents, either directly or in partnership with other local professionals. The vast majority (96%) ensured sufficiency and quality of existing provision and almost two thirds (64%) said they had developed new provision or new places. 82% had streamlined administrative processes and 78% had carried out workforce development and training.
- More than two in five responding LAs (44%) said that they had experienced difficulties over the last year in implementing funded early education entitlements for disadvantaged two year-olds.
- The most commonly reported difficulty local authorities faced was eligible parents not wanting or needing child care for their 2 year-old, with 34% of responding authorities saying that they had experienced this. Twenty per cent of responding authorities reported a lack of funding for publicity, outreach or infrastructure development, and 16% of responding LAs reported that they had experienced providers not wanting to offer funded places to eligible 2 year olds.
- Local authorities were also asked about what they had done to promote the universal funded early education entitlements of 15 hours for 3 and 4 year olds. Nine in ten (90%) had supported providers or children’s centres to communicate with parents and carers and ensured the sufficiency and quality of existing provision.
- One in five (20%) responding authorities reported difficulties in implementing the universal funded early education entitlements of 15 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds.
- Thirty eight per cent of responding authorities said that the introduction of the 30 hours funded early education entitlements for 3 and 4 year olds of working parents had caused difficulties for the implementation of the disadvantaged 2 year old offer. Key difficulties mentioned were the capacity of early education providers to offer places for 2 year-olds, and financial sustainability.