February 22, 2016

Half of UK nurseries cannot afford more free childcare hours, finds study

The UK government’s plan to double hours of free childcare is threatened by nursery funding shortfalls, warns the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).

Nurseries in the UK currently offer 15 hours of free childcare each week for three- to five-year-olds. The government plans to double this to 30 hours each week during term time to further support families, with a pilot scheme being introduced later this year.

However, the results from the NDNA’s annual survey revealed that only 45% of the nurseries they questioned would be likely to extend the number of free hours offered. This is due to a serious funding gap, with the NDNA claiming that the average nursery is absorbing a significant loss of £34,000 per year, and that 89% of nurseries already make a loss on free places.

Jane Waldfogel has written about the role of preschool in her article for IZA World of Labor. She argues that publicly-provided preschool can reduce rates of inequality for children from disadvantaged families, and that “the benefits of high-quality preschool programs persist into adolescence or young adulthood and, in most cases, are larger for more disadvantaged children.”

Although Elizabeth U. Cascio also argues for the importance of early education, she warns that “the benefits for the most advantaged children may be lower than the costs of their participation,” and therefore “policymakers should consider the possibility that income-targeted policies could yield the same benefits for less cost.”

Related articles:
The role of preschool in reducing inequality, by Jane Waldfogel
The promises and pitfalls of universal early education, by Elizabeth U. Cascio