SURVEY ON FIRST YEAR OF 30-HOURS

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The Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) has launched a survey inviting Early Years providers to share their experiences of the 30 hours free childcare policy.

The survey asks how providers are offering the 30 hours, what impact it has had on their financial sustainability and whether they are planning to change the way they offer it going forward.

The results will be used by the education charity to inform and lobby policymakers as the Government prepares to review the first year of the 30 hours offer.

Neil Leitch, the PLA's Chief Executive, says: “We know that providers get asked to respond to a lot of surveys about the 30 hours – but with the first year of the policy drawing to a close, now is a vital time for the sector to have its say on how well – or not – the scheme has worked in practice so far.

“As the Department for Education prepares to evaluate the first year of the policy, we want to capture an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground – which is why it’s so important that as many providers as possible respond to the survey.

“We also know that including the voice of parents in these debates is absolutely critical – as our successful campaign against ratios changes showed – and so we’ll also be working with key partners to ensure that their views are also heard.”

The survey closes at 5pm on Tuesday 28th August and all individual responses will be strictly anonymous.

The survey was launched just days after Mr Leitch accused the Government of turning 'a blind eye to the devastating impact' of the 30 hours free childcare offer on the Early Years sector.

His comment came as more than 100 childcare providers took part in The 30-hours Lobby Day organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Childcare and Early Education, of which the PLA is a founding sponsor.

Providers from nurseries, pre-schools and childminding settings met with MPs and peers in Parliament on July 18th to discuss their concerns about the 30-hours scheme and underfunding for the sector generally.

Since its launch in September 2017 the 30 hours policy has been heavily criticised by Early Years providers and organisations who argue that current funding levels do not cover the cost of delivering places.

Independent Early Years research company Ceeda has estimated that the sector is facing a shortfall in funding of more than £500m a year.

Mr Leitch said: “It beggars belief that, nearly a year into the roll-out of the 30-hours, the Government still sees fit to turn a blind eye to the devastating impact that this policy is having on Early Years providers.

“Week after week, we are seeing nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country having to choose between increasing fees and charges for parents, compromising on quality or potentially being forced to close their doors for good.

"This is a direct result of the sustained underfunding of Early Years care and education in this country – and yet all we seem to hear about from Government is how great the scheme is for parents. This just isn’t good enough.”