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NEWS: Watchdog report highlights significant barriers to early years expansion

Today the National Audit Office (NAO) has published a new report highlighting concerns around the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to expand the funded early years offer in England.  

The report outlines how, despite meeting its first milestone for April 2024 with the rollout for eligible 2-year-olds, the DfE’s has assessed its confidence in meeting the later stages of the rollout (September 2024 and 2025) as “problematic”.

The report reveals that budget pressures led to the cancellation of early feasibility pilots in a number of local authorities. It warns that expansion at the current pace and timeframe could impact quality of early years provision, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. The NAO is now advising the DfE to carefully monitor the next stages of the rollout to ensure its long-term success amidst significant recruitment challenges in the sector.

PACEY assisted the watchdog in its study with a submission of evidence detailing the current challenges facing early years and childcare providers.  

Read the report in full

Helen Donohoe, Chief Executive at PACEY comments:

“Today’s report from the National Audit Office (NAO) provides further evidence of the adverse consequences of the attempted extension of the childcare entitlement offer.

“Along with other members of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, PACEY has long raised its concerns about expansion; the lack of consultation with providers, the lack of a coherent long term workforce strategy and the detrimental impact on the most disadvantaged children.

“The NAO report must be a wake-up call for the government. Urgent action is needed to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the sector, including the plummeting numbers of childminders. However that must be accompanied by a long-term vision for early education and childcare that has quality at its centre, that invests in its dedicated workforce and that is there to provide the best start if life that every child deserves.”