Head teachers have warned the government that the plans to extend free childcare could mean that school nurseries will have to cut their places for children.
Free childcare is currently available to all 3 and 4-year-olds and some 2-year-olds in England. This is currently up to 570 hours a year which equates to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. The government has announced the plans to double this rate for working families which is to be implemented by September 2017, with calls for volunteers to implement it from September 2016.
As free childcare is set to rise to 30 hours a week, head teachers have warned that this may have the effect of cutting nursery places since children will be moved from half days to full days. This was found after a survey from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) with the majority of those surveyed saying that the changes could lead to a cutting of between 25% and 50% of nursery places. However, they said this could be avoided if more capital funding was made available.
The survey also revealed that 80% of schools were using main school budgets to subsidise their nurseries due to a lack of funding. The NAHT said that early years education was an important part of the rest of children's school years and so a valid investment. 53% of those surveyed said an additional £3 per hour per child was required in order to fund the service without using their main schools budget. This figure would be set to rise if nurseries were to also accommodate the changes to free childcare without cutting places.
Following these concerns, a recent amendment to the Childcare Bill has been supported by Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT. This amendment would ensure a funding review is undertaken prior to the Bill coming into force.
What this funding review will entail is unclear. However, any discussions as to how early years education is funded will be welcomed by the NAHT after these concerns.