Huge decline in childcare demand in England as concerns for the sector grow

While restrictions are absolutely necessary to curb the spread of the virus, the lockdown in England has hit the early years sector hard.

Many parents and carers working from home are not using their nursery places. This coupled with the lack of support from the Government is putting many nurseries on the brink of permanent closure.

The Department of Education released statistics, revealing that an estimated 542,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 7 January. This is about 37% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time. Furthermore, the statement read:

‘On a typical day in the Spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week. We estimate that the 542,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 52% of the usual daily level.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said:

‘While we of course understand why many parents have taken the decision to keep their children at home, the failure of government to provide adequate financial support to early years providers means that this huge reduction in childcare demand is putting many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country at serious risk of permanent closure.

‘As it stands, early years settings are facing a complete postcode lottery, with some councils continuing to provide funding for children who aren’t currently taking up their childcare place, and others refusing to do so. Add to this the fact that providers are also losing private parental fees at an alarming rate, and it’s clear that, without help, many in the sector will simply not be able to remain afloat for much longer

‘Given that the government’s ‘stay at home’ order is likely to remain in place for several weeks, it is absolutely critical that the Department for Education and Treasury stop dragging their feet on this and commit to providing the temporary financial support that providers need to make it through this incredibly difficult period: that means the immediate reinstatement of early entitlement funding at pre-Covid levels as well as emergency funding for providers facing a loss of private income.

‘The government keeps saying how important a role the early year plays, but what the sector needs is urgent action, not empty rhetoric.’

Key Findings

  • An estimated 49,000 early years settings were open on 7 January. This represents 72% of all settings, with 13% closed and 15% unknown. The percentage closed may include some providers which are open, due to differences in the ways local authorities collect data and report non-responses. This is currently being reviewed.
  • Estimated 542,000 children attended early years settings on 7 January. This represents approximately 37% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time.
  • 542,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 52% of the usual daily level.

 

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