Over 600,000 new childcare places have been created in England
since the National Childcare Strategy was launched in 1998, but the
long-term sustainability of this new provision is in danger,
according to a new report, writes Amy
The study by the National Audit Office finds that 300,000 places
closed in the same period and that half of the providers of new
places did not know what they would do when government start-up
The report identifies a range of threats to the long-term future
of the new provision, including high staff turnover, competition
from other providers and the burden of administration.
It warns that many existing providers fail to cover their out
goings and significant numbers lack sufficient understanding of
their costs to judge their viability.
It warns that, while the Department for Education and Skills is
aiming for further growth in the sector until 2006, few providers
are planning to expand. Providers cite a need for bigger premises
as the main barrier to expansion. The limited size of the workforce
is also highlighted as a potential hazard.
Stephen Burke, director of childcare charity Daycare Trust,
said: “Sustainable services are crucial. Many providers don’t know
where their next funds are coming from. Currently one childcare
place closes for every two that open.”
The report also finds that a postcode lottery element still
exists in childcare, with the number of pre-school places varying
between 11 per cent and 58 per cent of pre-school children.
N Early Years: Progress in Developing High Quality Childcare and
Early Education Accessible to All from: www.nao.org.uk