Newly released government figures show 2,087 childcare settings in England have closed since the start of the year.
Over 2,000 early years providers have been forced to close their doors since the start of the year, according to data released by the Government.
Figures from the Department for Education show that childcare settings in England fell by 2,087 during the first three months of 2021. This compares with a fall of 500 settings in the same period the year before and 600 in 2019.
Labour says that the data suggests the Government’s reference to early years in the Queen’s Speech doesn’t match what is happening on the ground. The Speech’s only reference to early years came here:
“Measures will be brought forward to ensure that children have the best start in life, prioritising their early years. My ministers will address lost learning during the pandemic and ensure every child has a high quality education and is able to fulfil their potential.”
Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, said: “Labour has repeatedly warned that a decade of Conservative neglect and the impact of the pandemic could force thousands of early years providers to shut their doors forever. This worrying data shows that our worst fears are being realised.
“The Government’s rhetoric on early years has not been matched by reality and today’s promises will ring hollow for the thousands of parents struggling to find affordable early years education, childcare and support.
“Ministers need to start listening to families and come forward with a proper plan rebuild this essential infrastructure after a decade of neglect.”
Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said the closures were “deeply concerning”: “It is the obvious result of years of paltry, below-inflation funding rises that have resulted in the substantial underfunding of early education entitlements.
“When combined with a lack of government action to combat the loss of income and additional costs resulting from the pandemic, we have an early years emergency on our hands. Unless this enormous and clearly unsustainable pressure is eased now, this unwelcome trend will only continue.”
Meanwhile, an EYA survey out on Friday found a growing divide between children. More than half of childcare providers said that they had observed negative changes in the learning and development of children when they returned to their setting after lockdown – with 42% of these saying that these were more evident in children from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 94% said personal, social and emotional development and 82% said communication and language development had been particularly impacted.
More than eight in 10 respondents said that the government is not doing enough to support early years providers to tackle the impact of the pandemic on under-fives, with many citing a lack of adequate financial resources and an inability to invest in additional staff to offer targeted support.