Report highlights risks of tiered universal access policy in UK

by Jason Roberts

January 29

A new report has concluded that recent policy changes to the funding arrangements in the United Kingdom’s early years sector may be unintentionally creating a disparity in deciding who is prioritised for early years provision.

 

The analysis conducted by Avinash Akhal, a researcher in the Social Mobility and Vulnerable Learners division of the Education Policy Institute examined the relationship between the introduction of the 30 hours of funded quality early learning policy for 3 to 4 year olds and disadvantaged children and the actual take up of the 30 hours by each grouping.

 

The intention of the analysis was to understand whether the take up of care to different age groups had been impacted by the funding and whether overall enrolments across age groups had increased in light of the increase in funding.

 

The key findings were as follows:

 

  • Take up of disadvantaged 2 year old 30 hour entitlements rose at a slower pace than take up of 3 to 4 year old 30 hour entitlements

 

  • The extension of funding from 15 hours to 30 hours of quality early learning per week had no visible impact on take up

 

  • The introduction of the 30 hours entitlement had no visible short term impact on the number of places provided by providers

 

  • Changes in funding rates are not strongly correlated with take up of funded early learning places

 

With respect to the two key conclusions that at the margin 2 year old entitlement take up are growing less than overall entitlement take up and the provision of additional places does not seem to be correlating with increases in funding, the report concludes that financial constraints faced by operators may be influencing decisions in these areas.

 

In particular the report notes the current level of “underfunding” in the sector, as cited in CEEDA research on the subject, may be driving operators to address the financial deficit in the first instance.

 

That being said the report also highlights that parent working patterns, family income and the relative cost of and perceived benefits of early education may also be impacting outcomes.

 

The full report can be accessed here.

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