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Increasing numbers of two year olds are receiving childcare in school settings, according to Department for Education figures.
The figures also show that the percentage of four year olds benefitting from free 15 hours of childcare fell by 1% in the last year.
The statistics show the percentage of three year olds benefitting stayed more or less stable, although the numbers of children decreased by 4.3% due to a drop in the birth rate. The reverse is true for four year olds where, despite a falling percentage of children benefitting, the numbers of children affected increased by 0.9%.
Meanwhile, the number of two year olds benefitting from some funded early education in January 2017 stood at 163,250 or 71% of the eligible population. While the actual number of children benefitting fell by 2.2% due to the falling birth rate, the percentage rate was up.
Most two and three years olds were cared for by private and voluntary providers, including childminders, but four year olds were more likely to be in maintained settings, such as schools. However, more and more two year olds are in school nurseries with the number in private settings falling from 96% to 88% over the year.
There was a significant rise in quality for childcare settings for both three and four year olds and two year olds.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “We know that quality early education and care has a significant impact on children’s long-term life chances, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. As such, it is positive to see take-up for the two-year-old funded childcare offer continuing to rise.
“That said, we remain concerned that without sufficient investment into the early years sector, this progress is likely to be undermined by the introduction of the 30-hour offer for three- and four-year-olds. Our recent survey of early years providers found that four in 10 of those planning to deliver 30-hours places expect to reduce the number of places they offer to children of other ages.
“It simply isn’t acceptable for one group of children to benefit at the expense of another, just because the government isn’t willing to invest what is needed into the system. All parents should be able to access the childcare they’ve been promised, but without adequate funding, this simply won’t be possible.”
The National Day Nurseries Association has also called for extra funding and says the Government should delay implementation of the free childcare until this has been reviewed. It has surveyed 128 education authorities in England about the money they will get and found they will receive on average an increase in the funding of free childcare for three and four year olds of 40p per hour per child from September which will not cover their costs.