‘Many under fives – and childcare providers – unlikely to return this week’

A recent survey of parents and childcare providers shows less than half of parents of under fives plan to send their children back to school or nursery and only two thirds of childcare providers plan to reopen more widely.

Small child playing with brightly coloured bricks on the floor in a childcare setting


Less than half of parents of under-fives are planning to take up their childcare places as early years providers in England open to more children today, according to a new survey.

A survey conducted in May by the Early Years Alliance of 4,490 parents of children aged under five accessing formal childcare found that just 45% of parents whose provider is reopening around 1st June were planning to take up their child’s place, while 42% were not and 13% were undecided.

The most commonly cited reasons for those not taking up their place were: “I do not think it’s safe for my child” (74%); “I do not think it’s safe for my wider family (63%), and “I do not think it’s safe for the staff at our childcare setting / our childminder” (58%).

When asked what would need to happen to take up their place, the most commonly-cited answers among parents not taking up their place were: a sustained fall in the number of coronavirus cases across the country (79%); more information from the government on the science underpinning the decision to reopen childcare settings (58%); and a sustained fall in the number of coronavirus cases in the local area (55%).

The survey also found that one in five (21%) of those parents intending to take up their childcare place from 1st June plan to use less hours than they did previously.

When asked to rank how clear the government has been on the rationale behind reopening childcare settings from 1 (very unclear) to 10 (very clear), parents gave an average rating of 3.9, with nearly three in 10 (28%) giving a rating of 1.

The Alliance also surveyed 6,300 responses childcare settings in England and found that 65% said they were planning to reopen more widely on 1st June, while 21% were not planning to do so and 15% were unsure.

Half of providers expect demand for places to be less than the number of children they can care for safely when they do reopen (27% expect it to be the same, 11% expect it to be more and 11% don’t know.). Moreover, 69% expect to operate at a loss over the next six months (26% expect to break even and 4% expect to make a profit).

Of those childcare providers not planning to reopen on 1st June, the most commonly-cited reasons for not opening were: “Don’t feel it’s safe for staff families/own family” (64%); “Don’t feel it’s safe for children” (62%) and “Don’t feel it’s safe for staff/myself” (56%).

When asked when they are planning to reopen, the most common responses were:  September (42%);
July (20%); and I / we have no idea yet (18%).

When asked what additional support, if any, they want the government to supply the early years sector, the most common replies among all providers were: clearer government guidance on operating safely (70%); a guarantee of continuation of early entitlement funding for children not attending (67%); and financial support for coronavirus-related operating costs, such as cleaning (63%).

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Our survey findings show just how split parents are over whether or not to send their children back to childcare. While this isn’t in any way unexpected, it does highlight the huge pressure that the early years sector in England is facing over the coming months.

“With most childcare providers limited as to how many children they can care for safely, and many predicting that parental demand for places will be lower still, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are going to face a real struggle for survival during this incredibly difficult period. It is no exaggeration to say that the very future of the childcare sector is at risk if the government doesn’t get its act together and provide the support that providers need.”

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