1. Executive Summary
This report provides the analysis of an exploratory survey conducted by Education Analytical Services within the Scottish Government on the views of 4485 parents of 3 and 4 year olds on the proposed increase, by 2020, of free early learning and child care hours.
While the number of responses to the survey was high, the non-random sampling method effected the representativeness of the sample. The sample itself included relatively few of the following groups:
- Non-users of formal child care.
- Single parents.
- Households with no working adults.
- Households with low incomes.
- Overall, 86.4% of parents reported that they currently used the free child care entitlement.
- The most often cited reasons for using child care was for their child’s educational development, so that the parent could work, and so their child could interact with other children.
- The most commonly reported barriers to using the current child care entitlement was that they would still require some private child care to cover their needs. This was closely followed by reports of lack of availability of places within their area.
- The majority of parents also stated that they would like to be able to access more child care hours, and that they would like more choice in the type of child care available to them.
- Overall, the majority of parents reported that they found it difficult to afford the child care they need, with only one in five disagreeing that this was the case.
- When informed that the Scottish Government were proposing to increase the number of hours of free entitlement, the majority of parents stated that they would use the additional hours, fewer than 1 in 6 stated that they would not use all of the hours offered.
- The most frequently preferred option of extended child care entitlement was for year round early learning and child care, rather than only during school term time.
- The majority of parents would like to be able to access more child care hours so that they could work, train, or study. Parents in non-working households were more likely to state that they would use the additional hours to work, train or study, while parents in 2 parent working households were more likely to say that their work pattern would not change.
Barriers to use of child care entitlement
- The most cited barrier preventing use of the current free child care entitlement by those within large urban areas was lack of availability of places.
- Lack of availability of places was also commonly reported by non-users of the current entitlement, with over a quarter of those who identified as non-users of formal childcare reporting it as a barrier to them using the current entitlement.
- In contrast, only one in five non-users of formal child care reported not wishing to use the free entitlement as they preferred to look after their child themselves. Reasons for this were explored in the focus groups and there was a perception from some parents that 3 year olds were too young to participate in early learning.
- Parents from the focus groups also cited preferences for using private nursery provision as they saw the advantages private nurseries offered as: early opening, extended hours and year round coverage.
Current use of child care
- Respondents within low income households were more likely to report using local authority nurseries than those within medium or high income households.
- Those respondents within remote rural areas were most likely to report using the current free childcare entitlement, with those within large urban areas being least likely.
- In contrast, those within remote rural areas were least likely to report using a private or non-profit nursery, they were most likely to report using a child-minder on a weekly basis.
How parents intend to use the increased hours of free early learning and child care?
- Almost three quarters of households with no working adults either strongly or tended to agree that they would like to be able to access more hours of childcare to allow them to seek work, train, or study.
- Respondents within high income households were more likely to state that their work/life pattern would not change if the number of hours of childcare entitlement increased. This may reflect such households being more likely to consist of more than one working adult, working full time hours.
- Fewer than three in ten current non-users of formal child care stated that they would use none, or only some, of the proposed increased hours offered.
Use of informal child care
- While over 4 out of 10 parents reported using family and friends as child care on a weekly basis this varied across households. While the majority of households with 2 working adults reported using a family member or friend as child care on a weekly basis, a little over a quarter of households with no working adults, or 1 working adult did so.
- The majority of single parents (but not those in 2 parent households) either strongly, or tended to agree that they felt they placed too much of a burden on their family or friends for child care.
- While those within low income households were not more likely than high income households to report using family or friends as child care on a weekly basis, they were more likely to agree that they felt that they placed too much of a burden on them.
Email: Orlando Heijmer-Mason