The BBC is reporting warnings from the National Day Nurseries Association that fewer than half of nurseries will be able to offer extended free childcare planned by the government.
…Early years education for three- and four-year-olds is to be doubled from 15 to 30 hours for each week of term time…
Pilots of the scheme are due to begin in the autumn and a full rollout will follow in 2017, under new legislation covered by the Childcare Bill.
But in its annual survey, the NDNA found only 45% of the 485 nurseries questioned said they were likely to extend the number of free hours on offer.
The NDNA – which represents more than 5,000 nurseries out of a total of about 18,000 in England – said nurseries were currently managing to offer 15 hours of free childcare a week by plugging the shortfall in government funding.
In practice, it said, this meant parents paid a higher rate for the hours their child spent in nursery above 15 hours.
The average nursery had to absorb a loss of about £34,000 a year due to the funding gap, with 89% of nurseries making a loss on free places, it claimed.
The majority of respondents (92%) to the poll were private nurseries, with 7% from the voluntary sector and the rest maintained nurseries.
NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku said the nursery sector was “fully behind” the principle of more support for parents.
“But serious funding shortfalls stand in the way of nurseries getting on board, despite their desire to help families with free childcare,” she said.
“Private, voluntary and independent nurseries deliver most of the government’s free places, currently 15 hours per week for all three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds.
“But the nursery sector is reluctant to commit to offering more free hours when they already make a significant annual loss – an average of £34,000 per nursery – on the funded places they currently provide.”
But education and childcare minister Sam Gyimah said: “We are backing families and funding the sector, with £1bn extra funding every year by 2020, including £300m annually to increase the national average funding rate, to incentivise and attract providers to deliver the full 30-hour free offer to parents…”
Many independent providers have consistently maintained they lose money on free places which doesn’t bode well for the new government plans, no matter how welcome the idea is in principle.
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