WBG responds to National Audit Office report: Preparations to extend early years entitlements for working parents in England

Date Posted: Wednesday 24th April 2024

Early Education and Childcare

Responding to today’s report from the National Audit Office, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director said,

“Today’s report by the National Audit Office shines a light on just how crucial it is to get the expansion right and the precarity of that happening. With the proportion of Government funded hours going from 50% to 80% of total places – making it the main source of funding for providers – failure to get this right risks sector collapse and promises to parents going unmet.

“The NAO reports the Department for Education’s estimated need for an additional 40,000 people working in the sector by September 2025. Our work with the Early Education and Childcare Coalition and the University of Leeds estimates this is likely to be closer to 50,000 people this year and again next year to maintain existing provision and meet the demand created by the expanded entitlement[1].

Getting the level of funding right to be able recruit people, but equally as importantly to retain them, is going to be key. As the sector has been saying for years, the NAO reports that the Government has been funding hours at less than it costs to deliver them. While the rates have now gone up, based on figures previously released by the Department for Education we estimate that once fully rolled out, there will be a funding shortfall of around £5 billion a year from 2025/26[2].

This sector is characterised by a predominantly female workforce doing rewarding but difficult work that has gone undervalued and underpaid for too long. Higher investment and a workforce strategy that values and rewards early years professionals will not only be necessary for delivering the expansion, it will be a contribution to gender equality.

“Perhaps most worryingly, the NAO warns that the expansion could risk pushing out some of the most disadvantaged children from accessing places and have a negative impact on the quality of provision. This would widen the existing attainment gap between children and impact parents’ confidence in the early education and care their children receive.






[1] https://www.earlyeducationchildcare.org/early-years-workforce-report

[2] https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/updated-analysis-early-education-and-childcare/