The Department for Education (DfE) today published a report commissioned from Frontier presenting evidence from the evaluation of early implementation of 30 hours free childcare. The national rollout of 30 hours free childcare in September 2017 will extend the current entitlement of 15 hours of free early education to 30 hours for 38 weeks each year for three and four year old children with working parents.
The evaluation, undertaken in collaboration with NatCen Social Research and researchers from the University of East London, aimed to provide useful lessons to help facilitate a smooth national rollout of the policy and to provide early indications of impacts on childcare use and parental work. The study collected information from the eight Local Authorities who began early implementation a year early in September 2016 using large scale surveys of childcare providers and parents, analysis of Early Years and School census data, and in-depth case studies in all eight areas.
The key findings from early implementation are:
- A high proportion of providers were willing and able to offer the extended hours places and there was no evidence that financial implications were a substantial barrier to the delivery of the extended hours.
- Parents were keen to take up the extended hours.
- Take-up of the extended hours was associated with increases in the use of formal childcare; longer work hours for mothers and fathers; and some indication of higher work retention for mothers.
- There were additional perceived benefits for families in terms of enhanced work opportunities, direct financial support and broader wellbeing.
The report also offered a number of recommendations to support the policy, prioritising attention to technical details around eligibility checking and payment processes; ensuring sufficient support from DfE to Local Authorities to implement the policy; and positive promotion of the ultimate objectives of encouraging parents to work and supporting working families financially.
Frontier regularly advises clients in the public sector on issues related to early education and childcare policy.
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