The Department for Education (DfE) today published a report commissioned from Frontier Economics presenting evidence from the evaluation of early rollout of 30 hours free childcare. The national rollout of 30 hours free childcare will begin this month and will extend the current entitlement of 15 hours of free early education to 30 hours for 38 weeks each year for three- and four-year-old children with working parents.
The evaluation, undertaken in collaboration with NatCen Social Research and researchers from the University of East London, aimed to provide useful lessons to help facilitate a smooth national rollout of the policy. The study collected information from the four Local Authorities (LAs) who began the early rollout in April 2017 using a large scale survey of all registered childcare providers in each of the four areas; analysis of LA free entitlement data; and in-depth case studies in all four areas.
Early rollout was a stronger test of the policy than the previous trial (early implementation) as it involved complete implementation in all four areas and was undertaken when delivery would be challenged by the timing in the school year when spare capacity was at its lowest point. In spite of this stronger test, the key findings from early rollout were very similar to the earlier evaluation of the early implementation including:
- A high proportion of providers were willing and able to offer the extended hours places and there was no evidence that financial implications were a substantial barrier to the delivery of the extended hours.
- Parents were keen to take up the extended hours and the numbers of children receiving extended hours were close to the estimated number of eligible children in two LAs.
The report also reconfirmed the previous recommendations to support the policy, prioritising attention to technical details around eligibility checking and payment processes; ensuring sufficient support from DfE to LAs to implement the policy; and positive promotion of the ultimate objectives of encouraging parents to work and supporting working families financially.
Frontier regularly advises clients in the public sector on issues related to early education and childcare policy.
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