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Increasing the hours of free early learning and child care provision - An exploratory analysis of parents' views on the proposed increase to 1140 hours per year

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.


4. Methodology

Participants

The participants of this survey were all parents or carers of 3 or 4 year old children currently living in Scotland. There were a total of 4465 parents who completed the questionnaire. Respondents were instructed to complete the survey only once per household. The purpose of the questionnaire related to patterns of child care that would suit the family, and family experiences of early learning and child care, as well as details about the whole household. As such, information was not gathered on the individual respondents’ gender. Details of the contents of the questionnaire, and the informed consent form are included (Appendix 1).

Sampling method

The sampling method employed was non probabilistic in nature. Organisations relevant to family and child care services, private, non-profit, and local authority early learning and child care service providers were selected and contacted by email with requests to distribute the link to the online survey to parents of 3 or 4 year olds they have contact with.

Snow-ball sampling was also introduced by requesting those who participate to promote the survey using their social media accounts with a request for those seeing the message to propagate it even further.

Research instruments

The instruments consisted of a 25 question online survey. The online survey itself was hosted by Quest Back[5]. Respondents completed the questionnaire using their own internet connection and equipment, and the survey itself was optimised for desktop/laptop computers, tablets, and smart phones, to allow participants flexibility to respond using whichever method they wished. The precise number of questions completed by each respondent may vary as there were a number of possible routes that could be taken through the questionnaire and not every question would be asked of every respondent.

Group variables and definitions

A number of group variables were generated from the responses that helped analyse the data.

Level of formal childcare use.

The formal childcare use pattern was generated from the number of hours respondents reported using formal childcare (Local authority nursery, private/non-profit nursery, or Preschool).

Firstly each level of use on the scale was allocated a value based on the midpoint of the scale for each of the different formal childcare options:

  • Those who reported 1 to 10 hours were given the value of 5.
  • Those who reported 10 to 20 hours were given the value of 15.
  • Those who reported 20 to 30 hours were given the value of 25.
  • Those who reported 30 or more hours were given the value of 35.
  • Those who reported no use or that they use less than once a week were allocated a score of 0.

The total for all of the formal childcare options was then added up and the following categorical groups were made:

  • Those with a total of 0 hours were classified as non-formal childcare users.
  • Those with a total of 15 or less were classified as low child care users.
  • Those with a total between 16 and 29 were classified as medium child care users.
  • Those with 30 or more were classified as high child care users.

Working adults in the household

Respondents were asked how many working adults were in their household. This was then coded into a new variable which denoted either that there was either:

  • 2 or more working adults within the household.
  • 1 working adult within the household.
  • No working adults within the household.

This allowed us to analyse the differences in responses between households with one working adult, 2 working adults or no working adults within them.

Number of parents within the household

Marital status was used to generate a new variable denoting the number of adults within the household:

  • Those who reported either being a single parent, divorced, or widowed, were classed as being a ‘single parent household’.
  • Those reporting that they were married, or lived with their partner, were classed as living in a ‘two parent household’.

Household income group

A new variable with three categories of household income were created from the respondents reporting of their household income.

  • Those who reported earning less than a total household income of £13,499 or less, was classed as low household income.
  • Those who reported earning a total household income of more than £13,500 but less than £50,000 were classed as medium income.
  • Those who had a total household income of £50,000 or over were classed as high income.

Benefit status

Respondents reported which benefits they claimed, generating a binary variable denoting membership of one of the following two groups:

  • Those whose household claimed no benefits.
  • Those whose household claimed at least one benefit.

Urban/rural classification

The respondents’ postcode was used to obtain the urban/rural classification for their home. This breaks down as follows:

  • Large Urban Areas - Settlements of over 125 000 people.
  • Other Urban Areas - Settlements of 10 000 to 125 000 people.
  • Accessible Small Towns - Settlements of between 3 000 and 10 000 people and within a 30 minute drive time of a Settlement of 10 000 or more.
  • Remote Small Towns - Settlements of between 3 000 and 10 000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a Settlement of 10 000 or more.
  • Accessible Rural - Areas with a population of less than 3 000 people and within a 30 minute drive time of a Settlement of 10 000 or more.
  • Remote Rural - Areas with a population of less than 3 000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a Settlement of 10 000 or more.

Data analysis

All data analysis was completed using SPSS 16.0 on a desktop computer.

Contact

Email: Orlando Heijmer-Mason

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