Publication - Research and analysis

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING

Published: 29 Jun 2013
Part of:
Health and social care
ISBN:
9781782564164

This report provides an overview of the current situation regarding early childhood education and care provision in Scotland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, France and the Netherlands.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING
3 Country Report: England[80]

3 Country Report: England[80]

3.1 Key findings

  • In terms of governance, ECEC is integrated across educational and childcare provision, but not with policy responsibility for parental and other leave. However, not all early years services follow the educational framework.
  • ECEC provision is not available as a continuous entitlement to provision from birth to school, but only for limited hours from ages three until school age.
  • Across the UK, public expenditure on social protection makes up 28% of GDP. In 2007 3.6% of GDP was directed toward family benefits. 0.7% of GDP was spent on preschool education and 0.4% on childcare, for a total of about 1.1% of GDP.
  • With the transition to Universal Credit, the UK benefit system is currently undergoing a period of reform. From 2013, the Universal Credit will replace tax credits and housing benefits previously available to families with children.
  • Parental leave in England is unpaid.
  • Early education and childcare in England encompasses a wide range of services. Formal provision includes nurseries (day nurseries, nursery schools, nursery classes), playgroups, children or family centres and childminding. Many children are also looked after informally by, grandparents, friends and neighbours, nannies or other home carers.
  • ECEC is a mixed economy financed by the state and by private individuals on both a voluntary and for-profit basis.
  • Ofsted is responsible for registering and inspecting ECEC settings - public provision, independent for-profit and non-profit provision and home-based childcare - to ensure that they comply with statutory requirements and standards.
  • As of January 2012, 96% of three and four year olds (1.3 million) received some free early education, up from 95% (1.2 million) in 2011.
  • Similar to other aspects of ECEC in England, the characteristics of the workforce in terms of qualifications and pay is split according to whether the work is considered to be care or education. Teachers working within early education usually have higher level qualifications, better pay and working conditions whereas 'carers' tend to have lower level qualifications and worse pay and working conditions.

3.2 Concepts and objectives guiding ECEC development

  • In terms of governance, ECEC is integrated across educational and childcare provision, but not with policy responsibility for parental and other leave. However, not all early years services follow the educational framework.

England has a national ECEC agenda. This came to the fore with the election of the Labour government in 1997, which asserted an active role for the state in promoting formal early education and care services for young children. The current coalition government maintains such an ECEC agenda.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, growth in maternal employment spurred the development of commercial forms of care services. ECEC policy continues to actively encourage the expansion of market-based care through direct government subsidies. English ECEC policy has emphasised regulated private voluntarily and particularly market provided childcare, alongside nursery schools and nursery classes in the maintained sector, as a way of preserving flexibility and individual choice for parents. At the same time, there has been an emphasis on the educational dimension of ECEC, particularly with the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, which includes specific learning goals and achievement by preschool age children.

  • ECEC provision is not available as a continuous entitlement to provision from birth to school, but only for limited hours from ages three until school age.

Early education is seen as beneficial for all children nearing school-age (age three-five) regardless of whether their parents are full-time carers or not. Childcare (for younger children and for children generally outwith educational hours) is regarded more as a service for employed parents, who are thus unavailable to care full-time for their children themselves.

3.3 Socio-economic context

The most recent census estimated that there were a total of 53 million English residents, with 3.3 million children below the age of five years.[81] 18.9% of the English population is under 16 years, while 16.3% of the population is 65 years or older.[82] The population density is 401 inhabitants per km².[83]

The most recent statistics indicate that the total fertility rate is 1.93.[84] 5.0% of all live births were to women under 20 years of age in 2010.[85] Lone parent families make up 7% of all households.[86] 15.7% of English children lived in workless households in 2010.[87] 10% of children lived in households with income below 60% of the median for at least three of the four years between 2005-2008.[88]

Box 3.1: Summary of key population statistics[89]

Total fertility rate: 1.93
Teenage births: 5.0%
Lone parent families: 7%
Child population: 18.9%
Children under 16 living in workless households: 15.7%
Child poverty rate: 10%

3.4 Employment patterns

In England, the overall employment rate for 2012 was 70.7% of those age 16-64; the unemployment rate was 8.3% for those age 16 and over.[90] The employment rate for men age 16-64 was 75.6% and for women 65.3%.[91] A greater proportion of women work part-time than do men: 11.3% of employed men work part-time and 42.1% of employed women work part time.[92]

Data on parental employment patterns is available at the UK level only (not separately for Scotland or England. Employment rates for mothers and fathers with a child under six were 59.4% and 88.0% respectively. Employment rates for mothers and fathers with a child age six to eleven increased slightly to 71.9% and 89.5% respectively. 58% of women and 6-7% of men with children age eleven and under work part-time.[93]

Box 3.2: Summary of employment statistics[94]

Total employment rate: 70.7%
Total unemployment rate: 8.3%
Women's employment rate: 65.3%
Men's employment rate: 75.6%
Employed women working part-time: 42.1%
Employed men working part-time: 11.3%
Mothers' employment rate: 59.4%
Fathers' employment rate: 88.0%

3.5 Welfare system and social support for families with children

In 2009-2010, total public expenditure on services for England was £442 billion, or £8,531 per head.[95] £179.4 billion was spent on social protection (£3,462 per head), of which £24.7 billion was spent on children and families (£477 per head). £73 billion was spent on education (£1,409 per head), of which £4.3 billion (£84 per head) was directed toward preschool education for children under five years.[96]

  • Across the UK, public expenditure on social protection makes up 28% of GDP.[97] In 2007 3.6% of GDP was directed toward family benefits.[98] 0.7% of GDP was spent on preschool education and 0.4% on childcare, for a total of about 1.1% of GDP.[99]

Box 3.3: Summary of public expenditure (England)

Total public expenditure on services: £442 billion
On social protection: £179.4 billion
On children and families: £24.7 billion
On preschool education: £4.3 billion

UK-wide social security schemes include:

  • National Insurance, which provides cash benefits for sickness, unemployment, death of a partner, retirement, etc. People earn entitlement to these benefits by paying National Insurance contributions;
  • the National Health Service (NHS), which provides medical, dental and optical treatment and which is normally available free of charge only to people who live in Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
  • the child benefit and tax credit schemes, which provide cash benefits for UK nationals bringing up children;
  • non-contributory benefits for certain categories of disabled persons or carers;
  • other statutory payments made by employers to employees when a child is born or placed for adoption.

Families with children are generally eligible for Child Benefit if they are UK nationals. Child Benefit is currently £20.30 for the eldest child and a further £13.40 for each subsequent child per week. Since January 2013, Child Benefit has been removed from higher rate tax payers (and their partners).

Child Tax Credit is an income-related payment to support families with one or more children under age 16, or up to age 20 if the child is in full-time education or training.

The childcare element of the Working Tax Credit provides a means-tested benefit for families to offset the cost of purchasing childcare.

  • With the transition to Universal Credit, the UK benefit system is currently undergoing a period of reform. From 2013, the Universal Credit will replace child tax credits and housing benefits previously available to families with children.

3.6 Leave policies for families with small children[100]

3.6.1 Structure

Most leave policies have been introduced relatively recently. There is no difference between England and the rest of the UK regarding leave provision. There is maternity, paternity and parental leave provision. Maternity leave is for 52 weeks, and this can start from eleven weeks before the expected birth date. A mother can choose to return to employment from two weeks after childbirth. Up to ten 'keep in touch' days can be worked without affecting maternity leave or pay. After the first 20 weeks, the remaining maternity leave can be transferred to her partner (husband, partner, biological father, civil partner) if she returns to employment. The leave then becomes additional paternity leave and is for a minimum of two weeks and maximum of 26 weeks. Paternity leave is for two weeks and must be taken within the first 56 days of the baby's birth.

Parental leave is available as an individual right (i.e. per parent per child), for thirteen weeks up to the child's fifth birthday, with a maximum of four weeks leave to be taken in any one calendar year.

  • Parental leave in England is unpaid.

3.6.2 Payment and funding

Statutory maternity leave is paid at 90% of a woman's average earnings for six weeks with no ceiling and a flat rate payment of either £135.45 or 90% of average gross weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for 33 weeks. The remaining 13 weeks are unpaid. It is paid by employers who claim back from the taxation agency and financed by National Insurance Contributions from employers and employees. Additional paternity leave is compensated according to the same formula. Paternity leave is a flat-rate payment as for maternity leave, funded in the same way. Parental leave is unpaid.

3.6.3 Role of employer

All employees who have worked for their employer continuously for 26 weeks, into the fifteenth week before the week the baby is due, are eligible for statutory maternity pay or additional paternity leave (APL), as outlined above. Also, those on APL must have remained employed into the week before the leave is due to start.

Many employers make additional provisions that go beyond the statutory minimum for maternity leave. A minority of employers go beyond the statutory minimum for paternity leave. Employers may postpone granting parental leave for up to six months where leave-taking would cause significant disruption to the business.

Employers have a legal duty to consider requests from employees to work flexibly, and may refuse them only where there is a clear business case for doing so. Employers may also take 'a reasonable' amount of time off work to deal with emergencies.

3.6.4 Uptake of leave

Survey data from 2009/10 suggests that the mean length of maternity leave taken by women was 39 weeks in 2008. Less than half of mothers used the remaining period of unpaid leave. The same survey suggested that 91% of fathers took some time off around their baby's birth, though 23% did not use statutory paternity leave. There are no available administrative statistics for take up of statutory parental leave or additional paternity leave.

3.7 National framework of ECEC

The English ECEC model shares an approach with the Scottish model, which separates 'education' from 'care'. This ECEC model is characterised by a focus on free preschool education for three to five year olds in publicly funded part-time settings, alongside childcare, particularly for the under-threes, that is provided predominantly by informal carers or private for-profit companies. There is no link between the universal preschool entitlement that starts the summer following a child's third birthday and maternity and parental leave which ends after a year. Working parents have no guarantee of an ECEC place for their child following maternity/paternity leave, to support their employment. However, in England local authorities have a statutory obligation to ensure sufficient childcare places for working parents. There is ongoing reform in the English ECEC system to expand the free preschool entitlement to vulnerable two-year olds and to allow for more flexible use of the 15 hour entitlement to support parental employment.

3.7.1 Governance

The UK Government in Westminster is responsible for UK-wide policies which are directly relevant to ECEC, such as leave policies and funding through the tax system, as well as specific ECEC policy and funding for England. ECEC falls under the responsibility of the national Department for Education, though much of it is administered locally by England's local authorities.

3.7.2 Types of services

  • Early education and childcare in England encompasses a wide range of services. Formal provision includes nurseries (day nurseries, nursery schools, nursery classes), playgroups, children or family centres and childminding. Many children are also looked after informally by, grandparents, friends and neighbours, nannies or other home carers.

Formal provision includes day nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups, nursery and reception classes, Children's Centres, and childminding. Many children are also looked after informally by grandparents, friends and neighbours, nannies or other home carers such as au pairs (the latter of these are sometimes classified as formal care in English surveys). There are also special services for school-age children, which provide 'wrap-around' care before and after school hours.

Box 3.4: Types of services[101]

Day nursery: centre-based care for children under five years
Playgroup/preschool: usually part-time for children between two and four years
Nursery class/nursery school: class in primary school for three-four year olds, usually part-time
Reception class: first year of primary school, may take four year olds
Children's Centre: multi-purpose centre for children and their families, including ECEC
Childminding: family day care for children of all ages
Home carers: family, friend, neighbour care; nannies
School-age childcare: out-of-school group-based care

3.7.3 Public/private mix of provision

Although ECEC has been administratively integrated in England - within the Department for Education - a split between early education and care remains in terms of the types of provision and the nature of the workforce. Public provision is relatively higher in education, and care is almost entirely provided privately either for-profit or by volunteers. More childcare is informally provided than via formal provision.[102]

Public provision is usually for children age three and over through nursery schools, or nursery classes and reception classes in primary schools. A reception class is the first year of primary school and is usually a full school day. The compulsory school age is five years, but children are entitled to begin school from the September following their fourth birthday.[103] Nursery classes, by contrast, are usually part-time (around 15 hours per week), which corresponds with the free entitlement. While nursery classes are provided through schools, others are provided in or through children's centres, which offer integrated ECEC services in particular for disadvantaged children and their families. There are also some publicly-provided nursery schools for three to four year olds which are run by local authorities, mostly as part of children's centres.

Private provision of ECEC is very common - mainly through privately run day nurseries. Childminding is often operated as a small family business whereas pre-schools and playgroups are usually run by non-profit organisations such as community, church or parent groups. There are some private schools which provide nursery education, but the majority of school provision is publicly funded. Children under three years are almost entirely served by private for-profit or voluntary provision, as much care happens outside of normal school hours.

Table 3.1: Number of ECEC providers in 2011[104]

Total providers 107,900
Childcare providers 92,200
Full day care 17,600
of which in children's centres 550
Sessional 7,900
After-school clubs 10,000
Holiday clubs 7,900
Childminders - working 48,800
Childminders - registered 57,500
Early years providers in maintained schools 15,700
Nursery schools 400
Primary schools with nursery and reception classes 6,700
Primary schools with reception but not nursery classes 8,600

Of formal care (day care centres, children's centres, sessional care/playgroups) 59% is provided on a commercial basis, 30% by non-profit organisations and 12% publicly.[105]

Of three and four year olds benefiting from some free early education, 32% received this in reception classes in a maintained primary school, 27% from a nursery school or a nursery class in a primary school, 3% from an independent school, and 32% from a for- or non-profit provider.[106]

3.7.4 Financing and costs

As ECEC in England is a mixed economy, it is partly financed by the state and partly by private individuals and organisations. Under the free Early Years Entitlement (EYE), the central government provides funding to local authorities to ensure that every three and four year old has access to a part-time nursery education. This funding is passed on to various providers, both public and private, to cover the costs of a nursery place for each child for up to 15 hours per week, 38 weeks per year. The Early Years Entitlement has also been extended on a trial basis to some two year olds who are living in disadvantaged areas, with a view to this being extended to 'average' rather than 'disadvantaged' two year olds. Over 60% of the EYE is available through the state education sector, while the rest is provided through the market at a fixed subsidy rate.[107] In addition, school-based provision, children's centres and local authority provision for children in high need are all state-funded.

  • ECEC is a mixed economy financed by the state and by private individuals on both a voluntary and for-profit basis.

Given the age limits and part-time nature of the EYE, and the targeted nature of most other public provision, many parents purchase additional hours of ECEC, part of which may be subsidised through Working Tax Credit , depending on household income, or through employer vouchers (though this is due to be reformed in 2013). Depending on household income, under the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit parents can claim up to 70% (previously 80%) of a maximum of £175 of childcare expenses per week for one child and £300 per week for two or more children. This means that the maximum amount of assistance a family with one child could receive per week is £122.50, while a family with two or more children could receive a maximum of £210 of assistance per week.[108]

The credit is calculated based on the overall amount of Working Tax Credit the family is entitled to and is reduced as income increases. Those working fewer than 16 hours per week are not eligible, although this will no longer be the case under the new Universal Credit. Given these restrictions, few people are able to take advantage of support through the tax credit, as those living on very low incomes often do not meet the working hours requirements and income support tapers off sharply after a household earns about £750 per week (gross income).[109]

Currently, benefit disregards (excluding childcare expenses from income for purposes of calculating Housing and Council Tax Benefit) are also in place to support very low income families. For 2011-2012 these disregards covered up to 85% of childcare costs for some very low income families. However, this will no longer be the case with the introduction of the Universal Credit.[110]

Employers may also offer their employees childcare vouchers in exchange for a reduction in tax liability through Income Tax and National Insurance contributions exemptions.[111] Until 2011 all parents were entitled to exemptions up to £55 per week, but this has been reduced for higher-rate taxpayers.[112]

Simulating childcare support through these benefits for a two-parent family with two children where one earner works full-time and the other part-time, the Social Market Foundation estimated that a low income family (earning between £15,000-£37,000/year) could receive a total of £3,675 in 2011-2012, a middle income family (£42,000-£63,000) £900, and a high income family (above £63,000) £600.

UK-wide spending on ECEC is high - in 2007, the UK had the third highest spending (after Denmark and Sweden) on childcare and pre-primary education in the OECD at 1.1% of GDP (separate figures for England are not available).[113] Yet the cost of care to parents is high, particularly for very young children.

OECD estimates from 2008 suggest that net childcare costs (after benefits) make up 27% of family income.[114]

In the UK, direct public spending in 2011 (excluding tax expenditure) accounted for 12% of the funding for the day nursery market, corporate funding through employer vouchers 29% (of which almost half is funded through employee salary sacrifice), and other spending (charity, grants) 2%. Private individual payments made up 57%, of which about 22% is estimated to be subsidised through tax expenditures.[115]

In England in 2012, the average local authority funding per hour of an early years entitlement place was £3.68 for three and four year olds and £4.70 for two year olds (about 22% of English nurseries provide the EYE for two year olds).[116] The Laing & Buisson market survey has consistently found that providers make a loss when they deliver these places, which must be subsidised with profit-making in other areas.[117]

As of 2011, in England average yearly expenditure on childcare was £5,028 for 25 hours of nursery care per week, for a child under two. The most expensive nursery reported cost parents £11 per hour. The Childcare Costs survey 2011 from which these figures are drawn, noted that childcare costs had typically increased by more than the average wage.[118]

Box 3.5: English ECEC costs per week[119]

Nursery (for under twos): £103.19
Nursery (for two and over): £98.75
Childminder (under twos): £92.61
Childminder (two and over): £91.83
Out-of-school club (15 hours): £45.81

Fees for a full-time nursery place (whole-day, five days/week), are higher in all the regions of England than in other parts of the UK.[120]

Childcare prices across provider types have risen since 2011, though the highest increase was 6.7% for nursery for under-twos, followed by nursery for over twos at 5.1%. Out of school clubs increased the least at 1.7%. For-profit nurseries tend to be slightly more expensive, but the gap between them and nurseries run by local authorities is small.[121]

3.8 Access levels and patterns of use

As of January 2012, 96% of three and four year olds (1.3 million) received some free early education, up from 95% (1.2 million) in 2011. 93% of three year olds and 98% of four year olds received some free early education. The vast majority of children have access to this education. Take up of the entitlement is lower among families living in the most deprived quartile compared to those living in the least deprived quartile. Children of Black African, Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers are substantially less likely to receive free early years provision than the children of white mothers.[122]

Box 3.6: Summary of ECEC enrolment by age (under 12)[123]

Formal provision:[124] 0-2 (39%), 3-4 (84%), 5-7 (54%), 8-11 (50%)
Informal provision:[125] 0-2 (33%), 3-4 (27%), 5-7 (28%), 8-11 (28%)
Parents only: 0-2 (41%), 3-4 (11%), 5-7 (31%), 8-11 (33%)
Median hours per week in any ECEC: 0-2 (18.2), 3-4 (23), 5-7 (5.5), 8-11 (4)

Up to 2010, the free entitlement consisted of up to 12.5 hours per week. All children became eligible for 15 hours a week from 2011. Not all children access the full entitlement.[126] The part-time equivalent number of free early education places (15 hours) taken up by three year olds was 596,400, or 89% of three year olds. For four year olds, the figure was 633,100, or 97%.[127]

In 2010, survey estimates were that 78% of all families in England with children under 15 years had used some form of childcare - which would translate into roughly 5.7 million children in slightly over four million families in the population. 61% of these families used formal childcare and/or early years provision and 40% used informal childcare. The use of formal care was most common among three and four year olds (83%) and informal care was most common among children under three years (34%).[128] Children in couple families, working families and families with higher income were all more likely to use formal childcare than were lone parents, workless families or low income families.[129]

Children who received childcare spent an average of 8.3 hours there (median) per week. The median amount of free entitlement hours received by three- and four-year-olds was 15 hours. Preschool children spent more time in childcare than school-age children, since the latter spend much of their time in school rather than ECEC. Preschool children spent an average of 20.5 hours per week in care compared to an average of 5 hours for school-age children (see table 3.2). This highlights that most childcare is parental childcare.

Table 3.2: Hours in childcare per week by age of child

Age 0-2 Age3-4 All preschool children Age 5-7 Age 8-11 Age 12-14 All school-age children All
Any childcare
Median 18.2 23.0 20.5 5.5 4.0 4.8 5.0 8.3
Formal childcare
Median 16.5 18.0 17.9 3.5 2.5 2.5 3.0 6.0
Informal childcare
Median 10.9 8.0 9.5 5.0 4.5 6.5 5.0 6.0

Source: Smith et al, 2012.

3.9 System of quality assurance in ECEC

3.9.1 Inspection, monitoring and quality assurance

In England, Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) is the non-ministerial government department responsible for the inspection and regulation of children's services and education.

  • Ofsted is responsible for registering and inspecting ECEC settings - public provision, independent for-profit and non-profit provision and home-based childcare - to ensure that they comply with statutory requirements and standards.

However, the legislation governing the inspection of private for-profit and voluntary settings differs from that which governs the inspection of ECEC provided by nursery schools and nursery classes within primary schools.

For independent (non-state) provision, Ofsted holds two registers for providers - the Early Years Register, which is compulsory for those looking after children from birth to five years, and the Childcare Register, which is compulsory for those looking after children from five to eight years.

Providers must meet minimum requirements in terms of health and safety, group sizes and child-staff ratios, and staff qualifications. Newly registered providers are inspected within a short period of registration and again at least once within three years. Although there is no legal requirement, providers are also encouraged to complete a self-evaluation.

3.9.2 Workforce qualifications

Overall the early education and care workforce is predominantly made up of women. Only about 1-2% of the workforce is male across the whole of the UK. Day care workers tend to be very young (30% are under 25), while childminders tend to be older (65% are over 40).[130]

  • Similar to other aspects of ECEC in England, the characteristics of the workforce in terms of qualifications and pay is split according to whether the work is considered to be care or education. Teachers working in early education usually have higher level qualifications, better pay and working conditions whereas other childcarers have lower level qualifications and worse pay and working conditions.

This difference also tends to reflect a public/private-voluntary split, given the higher level of public provision in early education compared to care. Public sector workers tend to have much higher levels of union membership than do private sector workers.[131]

Government policy has aimed to encourage all those working with children under eight years to achieve at least a level three (upper secondary) qualification. Childminders are not required to hold any qualification but must complete an approved course prior to working with children.

In 2011 78% of all paid ECEC staff were qualified to at least level three and 15% were qualified to at least level six (honours degree level). Staff in early years provision in maintained schools had higher qualifications than childcare staff. 82% of staff in the early years sector were qualified to at least level three and 42% to at least level six. Many such staff are required to hold higher qualifications, such as a National Nursery Examination Board diploma for nursery nurses or a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education for early years teachers, as a condition of employment.[132]

90% of staff in full day care provided by children's centres held at least a level three qualification; 84% of all full day care staff, 78% in sessional care, 75% in holiday clubs, 69% in after school clubs, and 59% of childminders were similarly qualified. 88% of staff in nursery schools, 85% of those in primary schools with nursery and reception classes and 77% of those in primary schools with reception but no nursery classes were qualified to at least level three.[133]

Within childcare settings the highest proportion of staff holding at least a level six qualification were found in children's centres with full day care at 21%. 11% of other full day care staff had similar qualifications. In all other childcare settings (including childminders) fewer than 10% of staff held a qualification of at least level six. 45% of staff in primary schools with reception but no nursery classes, 41% in primary schools with nursery and reception classes, and 34% of staff in nursery schools were similarly qualified. Staff in these settings are more likely to be qualified teachers, which requires degree-level qualifications.[134]

In 2007, a new professional status for early years providers was introduced by the UK government for use in England - the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS). The EYPS was commissioned by the government and developed by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC). Providers with this qualification are intended to work in leadership positions in formal care settings. EYPS does not set a particular pay scale.

Pay in the sector is low. In 2011 the average hourly wage ranged from £7.80 for full day care staff (including managers) to £11.30 for staff in children's centres. This is less than the national average hourly wage at £14.76.[135]

3.10 Historical overview of ECEC Policy[136]

1870 Education Act introduced compulsory schooling for five year olds, and a right of admission for under-fives

1872 Education Act introduced compulsory schooling for children age five-thirteen

1905 Local authorities permitted to withdraw right of admission for under-fives and numbers enrolled drop

1914 - 1918 Day nurseries expanded during the First World War, but contracted afterward

1918 Legislation allowed local authorities to establish nursery schools and day nurseries, but limited development

1939 - 1945 Rapid expansion of day nurseries occurred during the Second World War

1945 Education Act placed a duty on local authorities to provide nursery education for children two-five years; after the war the government revises its stance on nursery education, which is to be provided only for children in exceptional circumstances

1950s Many public day nurseries closed and private childcare gradually increased

1960s Part-time nursery education increased; increased enrolment of under-fives in reception classes; beginning of voluntary playgroup movement

1967 Plowden report published proposing part-time nursery education for three and four year olds. Though it is not implemented, the number of children enrolled in reception classes increased

1976 Statutory maternity leave of 40 weeks introduced

1989 English Children Act reiterated that public funding for childcare is to be targeted at families in need and reforms regulation of providers Late 1980s/early 1990s Rapid growth in for-profit day nurseries coincided with increase in maternal employment

1994 Voucher scheme for part-time nursery places for three and four year olds introduced

1995 Children Act placed a duty on local authorities to provide services for children in need

1997 UK Labour Government is elected and ECEC became a policy priority

1998 Introduction of the Sure Start programme, targeting disadvantaged children; Entitlement to free part-time nursery education for four year olds introduced; Responsibility for childcare moved from the Department of Health to the Department for Education & Employment; National Childcare Strategy set out in a Green Paper; Childcare Tax Credit introduced

1999 Unpaid parental leave and time off for dependants introduced

2000 Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage for three to six year olds introduced; extension of Sure Start programme to reach greater number of children

2003 Responsibility for other children's services integrated under the Education Department; Green Paper Every Child Matters launched the development of Sure Start children's centres; paternity leave and the right to request flexible working introduced

2004 Expansion of children's centres; part-time free nursery education entitlement extended to three year olds; Ten Year Childcare Strategy published

2006 Childcare Act placed a number of new duties on local authorities including securing sufficient childcare for parents, and supporting local providers

2008 Early Years Foundation Stage (framework for all registered provision for under fives) introduced

2011 Additional paternity leave and pay introduced

2012 Revised Early Years Foundation Stage introduced

3.11 Conclusion

The current Coalition government is pursuing a series of reforms to ECEC policy and services. The aim of these reforms is to maximise their impact on outcomes (particularly for the most disadvantaged children and families) and their support for parents in or seeking work, at a time of debate on the high cost of childcare (for hours additional to the free entitlement) as well as the complexity of regulations and funding for providers.

Since 2011, the Government has required all local authorities to implement an early years single funding formula (EYSFF), to improve the fairness and transparency of funding to providers to support the free early education entitlement. It is currently working to support local authorities to make their formulae simpler to understand, more transparent, and more focused on impact. The Department for Education has also recently published benchmarking information about local authority early years services to help improve the transparency of funding for free early education as well as other factors such as take up, quality of provision and children's outcomes.

Other reforms include: an extension of the Early Years Entitlement to the most disadvantaged two year olds from 2013-14; the introduction of a clearer and simpler Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) from September 2012 (following a review); and streamlined inspection arrangements.

Despite the reforms outlined above, the ECEC model in England is not yet an integrated one in terms of continuity of entitlement from birth to school. It is also expensive for both the state and private individuals, relative to other EU countries. In terms of governance, ECEC is integrated across educational and childcare provision, but not all early years services follow the educational framework. There is a division between the educational and childcare service aspects of ECEC. The part-time nature of the largely publicly provided educational provision presumes privately arranged childcare in addition, should more than one of the parents be employed. In sum, for the early years, parental care followed by informal care can be said to be the predominant forms of childcare in England, supplemented by private (for-profit and voluntary) and public formal childcare.


Contact

Email: Gita Anand