Sustainable Childcare Special Report
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Amid rising costs, inadequate government funding and a shortage of qualified staff, early years providers face challenging times and have to be creative in how they operate to keep settings viable.
A sustainable, good quality early education system is crucial to the future health and wellbeing of England’s youngest children and families. Without it, efforts to tackle the inequality gap faced by many children living in disadvantaged areas will flounder with long-term consequences for individuals’ life chances and the country’s economic prospects.
As it will soon be funding four out of five childcare placements, the government plays a crucial part in creating the right environment for the sector to flourish. Yet there is mounting evidence that rates for the funded entitlements were too low even before the rise in living costs and as the gap has grown wider the number of settings closing has risen too.
Expansion of the funded entitlements announced at the last Budget offer an opportunity to boost access to early education for more children but sector leaders remain unconvinced the funding will be sufficient to create enough places to meet demand. Even then, it will need the workforce to grow to deliver the care but current trends show the sector is suffering a recruitment and retention crisis due to low pay and status.
New measures to make staffing more flexible could help providers adapt provision and keep costs down but sector leaders fear it will be at the expense of quality. Meanwhile, providers and councils are working creatively together to try to ensure there are sufficient places for all families.
CYP Now’s special report on sustainable childcare highlights the key policy developments shaping the sector, brings experts together to debate the future of government-funded early education, rounds up essential data on the state of childcare settings in England and spotlights examples of good practice by providers and councils.