Publication - Research publication

The expansion of early learning and childcare: evaluation report 2017

A report exploring the impact of the expansion of government-funded early learning and childcare after 2014.

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

Contents
The expansion of early learning and childcare: evaluation report 2017
4. Accessibility

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

4. Accessibility

Key findings

Geographical accessibility:

  • The majority (85%) of parents live within 15 minutes of their main ELC provider, with 13% travelling between 15-29 minutes and 3% travelling for 30 minutes or more. There were no significant differences for parents living in rural areas or in different SIMD (deprivation) areas.

Awareness of the entitlement:

  • Over a fifth of parents (22%) with eligible children who do not take up their current entitlement gave not being aware of the availability of funded childcare as a reason (0.4% of all eligible parents).
  • Around half of all parents with children below 6 have definitely heard of the expansion to 1140 hours, and around a quarter had not heard of it. Lack of awareness is significantly higher amongst lower income parents and younger parents.

Accessibility for children with additional support needs:

  • Although a relatively small proportion of parents of eligible children with additional support needs indicated that they are dissatisfied with their access to suitable ELC (17%), nearly half of all parents of eligible children with additional support needs mentioned having experienced one or more difficulties accessing suitable provision (48%).

In addition to ELC provision being flexible enough to meet parents' needs, another important factor for encouraging parents to use the available ELC is that it is sufficiently accessible for all parents across Scotland. 'Accessibility' in this context has three different aspects:

  • Geographical accessibility: parents across Scotland need to be able to reach ELC providers without having to travel for long hours or incurring high travel costs.
  • Knowledge of the entitlement and how to register: parents of all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds need be aware that they are entitled to funded hours of ELC, and must know how to register their children.
  • Accessibility for children who have additional support needs: in order for the ELC provision to be equally accessible for all parents and children, children with additional support needs need to be offered ELC provision that meets their needs.

This chapter gives an overview of recent evidence on each of these sections, both with regards to the current ELC provision and parents' needs in light of the expansion to 1140 hours.

Geographical accessibility

The first important aspect for accessible ELC is that parents don't face travel-related barriers to reach a suitable ELC provider.

The 2017 ELC parent survey asked parents with currently eligible children about the length of a typical journey from their home to their main ELC provider. A majority ( 85%) live within 15 minutes of their main provider, which includes 33% reporting a journey time of less than 5 minutes, and 52% between 5 to 14 minutes. 13% travel between 15-29 minutes and only 3% travel for 30 minutes or more.

These travel time findings were similar across most parent groups, including parents living in urban and rural areas and parents living in different SIMD (deprivation) areas. [27]

However, parents who pay for ELC (on top of the funded entitlement) are slightly more likely than others to report a travel time of 15 minutes or more; 18% of those using paid provision, compared to 12% of those who do not pay.

It should be noted that the survey did not ask about people's modes of travel. Depending on one's definition of accessible ELC, a travel time of, say, 15 minutes by car might be perceived as less accessible ELC than 15 minutes on foot. In addition, the survey asked specifically about travel time from parents' home, while some parents may choose a provider that is not close to their home because they prefer one that is, for example, closer to their workplace.

When parents of eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds who have not used any of their ELC entitlement were asked for the reason(s) for this, 5% said that transport was not available or the travel time was too long, 4% that the travel costs would be too high, and, as mentioned in chapter 2, 17% that there are no available providers near them (0.3% of all parents with eligible children).

Knowledge of the entitlement and how to register

A second important aspect for accessible ELC is that parents with eligible children are aware of their entitlement and how to register their child.

As will be discussed further in chapter 7, almost all eligible parents use their ELC entitlement for 3 and 4 year old children, but take-up for 2 year olds is much lower. [28]

22% of all eligible parents who do not take up the entitlement gave not being aware of the availability of funded childcare as a reason for not using their ELC entitlement (24% for eligible 3 and 4 year olds and 22% for eligible 2 year olds) - making it the most frequently mentioned reason. This means that 0.4% of all eligible parents said they do not use their funded entitlement because they were not aware of it.

A lack of awareness was more frequently mentioned as a reason for not taking up the entitlement amongst parents in lower income groups, with no parent in employment and with English as an additional language.

In addition, 15% of eligible parents who don't use the funded ELC for 3 or 4 year olds and 9% for 2 year olds gave the reason that they do not know how to apply for funded childcare or find applying too difficult.

When parents of 0-5 year olds were asked if they had heard of the planned expansion of funded ELC to 1140 hours by 2020:

50% said they had definitely heard of it
24% they had possibly heard of it
26% they had not heard of it

This was broadly the same when looking only at parents with currently eligible children. It was also the same amongst parents living in rural and urban areas and those with and without children with additional support needs.

But the percentage of parents who had not heard of the expansion of funded ELC was significantly higher amongst parents living in the most deprived areas (34%), parents under the age of 25 (43%) or between 25 and 29 (33%), parents with a household income of less than £16,000 (42%) or between £16,000 and £30,000 (31%), parents with English as an additional language (32%) and households with no parent in employment (49%).

Some of these may be related. For example, people in younger age groups or not in employment may also on average have a lower income. To control for such interrelatedness, regression analysis was undertaken. This showed that the strongest factors for people's lack of awareness of the ELC expansion are low household income and age, in particular parents below 25.

Accessibility for children with additional support needs

In 2017, 16% of children registered for funded ELC were reported to have an additional support need ( ASN), which is higher than in previous years: [29]

Figure 13: percentage of children registered for funded ELC reported to have an additional support need in 2017 ( ELC census)

Figure 13: percentage of children registered for funded ELC reported to have an additional support need in 2017 (ELC census)

The most common types of ASN recorded were: language, speech and communication issues (7% of registrations), English as an additional language (6% of registrations), and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (3% of registrations). [30]

The 2017 ELC parent survey asked parents with eligible children with ASN about their satisfaction with their access to government funded ELC that meets the additional support needs of their children:

60% are satisfied or very satisfied
17% dissatisfied or very dissatisfied
15% neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
7% said don't know/ not applicable

This was broadly consistent across different types of ASN mentioned by parents. For example, there is no significant difference in satisfaction levels between parents mentioning cognitive or physical needs.

Although a relatively small proportion (17%) of parents of children with ASN indicated that they are dissatisfied with their access to suitable ELC, nearly half of eligible parents with children with ASN ( 48%) mentioned having experienced one or more difficulties accessing suitable provision.

Figure 14 below shows the difficulties reported, with the most frequently mentioned difficulties relating to lack of information and time available to staff:

Figure 14: percentage of parents with children with ASN reporting difficulties in finding government funded ELC that meets the additional support needs of their children (2017 ELC Parent Survey)

Figure 14: percentage of parents with children with ASN reporting difficulties in finding government funded ELC that meets the additional support needs of their children (2017 ELC Parent Survey)

When parents with 0-5 year old children with ASN were asked on which factors they would base their decision when choosing an ELC provider to meet the additional support needs of their child(ren), the following factors were mentioned:

Figure 15: percentage of parents with children with ASN reporting factors for choosing an ELC provider to meet the ASN of their children (2017 ELC Parent Survey)

Figure 15: percentage of parents with children with ASN reporting factors for choosing an ELC provider to meet the ASN of their children (2017 ELC Parent Survey)

In terms of likely future uptake of the expanded 1140 hours ELC entitlement, there was no significant variation between parents of children with ASN and others: 75% think they would take up all or almost all of the expanded hours for a 3 or 4 year old (identical to other parents), and 65% for a 2 year old (compared to 67% of others).

But in the 2017 ELC parent survey there were some other significant differences for parents with children with ASN, including:

  • Proportionately more of them said they would prefer to use the 1140 hours in school term time only (34% compared to 25% amongst all parents).
  • Proportionately fewer of them, though still the majority, said they would prefer to use the 1140 hours in longer sessions on fewer days per week (55% compared to 65% amongst all parents).
  • When parents who said they had experienced difficulties affording childcare were asked what made it difficult, relatively more parents of children with ASN mentioned transport costs (16% compared to 6% amongst all parents who experienced difficulties) and additional costs such as for trips and activities (20% compared to 7%).
  • When parents who said they would use the increased ELC entitlement were asked about the main reasons for this, almost half of parents with a child with ASN said they think it will be good for their ability to help their child's learning and development at home (49%, compared to 34% amongst all parents)
  • As will be discussed in chapter 6 on quality, parents of children with an ASN on average rate different aspects of ELC as important for assessing the quality of ELC, and are somewhat less satisfied with the quality of their current ELC provider on a number of aspects.

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