Building Blocks - the state of the childcare profession in England

More than 2400 childcare professionals took part in a survey to explore the main challenges they face, as well as assessing their overall confidence in the sector.

The survey was conducted by PACEY during February and March 2015. The results were published in May 2015

In tune on quality

One of the goals of the survey was to develop a shared understanding – among PACEY members, other childcare providers and parents – on what ‘high-quality childcare’ actually means.

Using PACEY’s Professional Standards as a baseline, we tested out definitions of what quality in childcare provision is, and also what it means to be a  high-quality childcare professional. Encouragingly, almost all of respondents (over 90 per cent) agreed with PACEY’s definition of what being a quality childcare professional means.

We received incredibly useful feedback and comments on our definition, and have used this to develop the following definitions of childcare quality.

Key findings of the report

Definitions of childcare quality

A childcare professional delivering high-quality care is one that:

  • delivers developmentally appropriate care and education
  • supports individual children to reach their potential
  • continually reflects on and improves their practice
  • works closely with parents, and other professionals
  • responds to parents’ needs.

High-quality childcare provision is:

  • developmentally appropriate and supports the child as a whole
  • based on the latest, and best, evidence of how children learn
  • centred on secure, rewarding relationships
  • effective communication between providers, parents and other professionals
  • creating safe and stimulating environments, as well as demonstrating good practice.

More than 87 per cent of providers responding to our survey are very confident that their own practice meets this definition, and almost two thirds (63 per cent) believe their practice fully meets the definition.

Funding challenges

PACEY has long argued that a simplification of the funding support system is urgently required, and this view was mirrored in the survey responses. Of the three main forms of childcare funding: employer-supported childcare vouchers; childcare tax credits; and funded early years education places, tax credits scored most poorly. Both childcare providers and parents rated them as the most difficult scheme  to access and understand, with a third of parents reporting problems in the last 12 months.

Despite the fact that more than half of respondents reported increased costs across the board, almost everyone who completed the survey expressed resistance to increasing their fees. The survey paints a clear picture of increased financial pressures on providers, with pressures of increased business costs and training, as well as the shortfall in early years entitlement funding places all taking their toll.

Most worrying, of those who responded, one in five group settings and one in 15 childminding settings reported a loss in the last 12 months.

Providers’ level of confidence in their business is clearly associated with a setting’s plans for growth and plans to stay in childcare, for both group and home-based providers. The survey reveals more group than home-based settings have plans for growth,with two out of five group settings as compared to one in three childminders planning to grow their business in the next 12 months.

Barriers to cooperation

Findings revealed that there are still substantial barriers to cooperation between childcare providers and other professionals working in the sector; this being particularly true for home-based professionals. Group providers were generally more positive about their experiences of working with healthcare professionals and schools, and rated both as more willing to work with them than homebased providers.

Overall, confidence in Ofsted was low, with more than one in seven expressing concern that their last Ofsted inspection was inconsistent with that of other similar settings. Furthermore, provider confidence in Ofsted’s complaints procedure received a low total score, with two in five expressing concern that complaining about their Ofsted inspection could negatively impact your relationship with the inspectorate.

Thumbs up from parents

Significantly, of the parents who completed the survey, almost all of them gave strong approval ratings for their childcare provider, with an impressive 93 per cent expressing a high level of satisfaction with their childcare provision. Similar numbers were willing to recommend their provider to other families in their area.

One in three also said they found their childcare provider to be the most valuable source of information about changes in childcare policy. The fact that parents place childcare professionals above their employer or local authority in keeping them up to date with policy changes, demonstrates the high esteem
in which many parents hold their childcare provider.


Read the full report

You can download and read the full Building Blocks report here and the executive summary here.