Equal access to high quality early childhood education and care: Evidence from England and lessons from other countries
All research studies show that it is only high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) that improves children’s live chances. Yet ECEC also has to be affordable for working parents as well as reaching less advantaged groups. Reconciling quality, affordability and access in ECEC has been a challenge in most developed countries.
The Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the LSE in partnership with Daycare Trust has recently completed research into this issue, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The project had two main components. It explored the links between children’s background and the quality and cost of ECEC in England, using a number of existing datasets. It also brought experts from seven other OECD countries together, asking them how effectively, and through what mechanisms, their country ensures access to high quality ECEC to children from disadvantaged families. The countries chosen were Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the USA.
View the policy brief
View the working paper
Supporting London local government to deliver free early education for disadvantaged two year olds
Daycare Trust was commissiond by London Councils to conduct a research study on the delivery of the free early education offer for two year olds. High rates of poverty in the capital means that London has to find more places for two year olds than any other English region; by September 2014 an estimated 55,100 children will qualify for a free place. As nearly half of all nurseries are already operating at full capacity in London, many local authorities are concerned that they will not be able to find a sufficient number of early education places.
The research involved a survey to local authorities and interviews with them and a range of early education providers. It highlighted the significant administrative costs to local authorities and insufficient revenue funding from central government.
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2012 London Childcare Report
Parents in London face a harder time than families anywhere else in the country when it comes to finding and paying for childcare. Daycare Trust’s ‘2012 London childcare report’ gives an in-depth analysis of the childcare picture in London. It reveals, for the first time, the particular factors which together are causing a growing childcare crisis in the capital.
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Informal Childcare: Choice or Chance?
Despite the greater availability and affordability of formal childcare since the 1990s, research shows that the number of parents using informal childcare – typically from friends and family – remains high. Although informal childcare is important to many families, little was known about this practice. To fill this knowledge gap, Daycare Trust undertook a two-year research project on informal childcare, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, which ran between 2010 and 2012.
The overall aim of the research was to map informal childcare use and achieve a greater understanding of this form of childcare and, where applicable, its interplay with formal childcare. We were interested in who uses informal childcare, to what extent and for what purpose. We also aimed to profile informal carers and analyse their experiences.
Our research comprised two large-scale surveys: one of parents and the other focusing on those who provide informal childcare. We also conducted ten focus groups with parents who used informal childcare and two focus groups with young people who provided informal childcare. We held an event in March 2012 at which we presented the research findings and discussed our conclusions with key stakeholders.
We hope that our research will build a stronger body of evidence that can feed into policy recommendations to support families. The published outputs of the project are:
Informal Childcare: Choice or Chance? This literature review provides a comprehensive background to informal childcare.
Improving our Understanding of Informal Childcare in the UK: An Interim Report of Daycare Trust Research into Informal Childcare This report contains the main findings from our research.
Informal Childcare: Choice or Chance? Project Summary Report This is a short summary of the findings from our research.
Listening to Grandparents This report highlights the importance of grandparent care to families.
Childcare for Parents with Atypical Work Patterns: The need for flexibility This report highlights the childcare struggles experienced by parents with atypical work patterns.
Young Babysitters in Britain This report focuses on informal childcare offered by young people.
Launch event presentations:
Daycare Trust held an event to launch this research on 28th March 2012. The presentations for this event are below.
Presentation by Peter Grigg, Family and Parenting Institute
Research findings presentation
For further information about this research please contact Jill Rutter on email@example.com or on 020 7940 7526.
Improving Quality in Early Years Education and Care: a comparison of perspectives and measures
This research study by Daycare Trust, University of Oxford and A+ Education compared different quality measures used in England to identify and improve the quality of early years provision. The project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
The research compared Ofsted inspections with other quality assessments such as ECERS (the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale) and ITERS (the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale), as well as quality assurance schemes. Focus groups were also carried out with parents, providers and local authorities to explore how these different measures are understood and used.
Key findings and conclusions include:
- Ofsted grades are too broad to provide a detailed measure of quality in early years settings, and are best used alongside other quality measures
- Some settings judged as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted were rated as lower quality on the ECERS and ITERS rating scales.
This has important implications for the way in which funding decisions around early education are made, particularly places for disadvantaged two year olds, as Ofsted ratings are currently used by many local authorities to determine which nurseries and preschools receive government early years funding for free places. It is also important because Ofsted reports are often the only information available to parents to support their childcare choice. The research shows that no single quality tool was able to provide a full picture of quality.
There is overwhelming evidence that investing in high quality childcare in the formative years of a child's life can make the biggest difference to their life chances, but this research found that parents are not currently equipped to make informed choices on quality. The report recommends that Ofsted reforms its reports to ensure they are accessible and useful to parents, and that local authorities consider whether they could do more to make the information which they hold on providers available to parents, as recently recommended by the National Audit Office.
Download the full report
Download the summary
As part of this project, Daycare Trust developed a new parent resource, 'Visiting childcare providers: How to find high-quality childcare'.
You can also view presentations from the launch event:
Presentation from the research team
Presentation from Professor Kathy Sylva from the University of Oxford, setting out the research which shows the importance of quality
Making Work Pay - The Childcare Trap
Parents in the UK face some of the highest childcare costs in the world. This affects their ability to work, train and study, as well as forcing families to make difficult financial choices.
In spring 2011 Save the Children and Daycare Trust surveyed more than 4,000 parents to explore their views on access to childcare and the impact of childcare costs on family incomes and work prospects.
Save the Children and Daycare Trust believe that affordable, accessible and high-quality childcare has a vital role to play in tackling child poverty. Together we are calling on the government to increase the amount of financial support parents can receive to help pay for childcare.
Making Work Pay - The Childcare Trap This briefing uses findings from the survey to examine how the cost of childcare impacts on parents' employment, family budgets and in turn child poverty.
Telling their story A compilation of parents' words from the ‘What's childcare really costing you?' survey.
Open all hours? Flexible childcare in the 24/7 era
Changes in the economy have led to increasing demand for employees to work outside of the standard working hours of 8-6pm - most notably the growth of the service sector and increasing demand for people being able to access services 24 hours a day.
This is a particular issue for parents who need to access childcare at these atypical hours - a mere 17 per cent of working families with dependent children work exclusively standard hours. There is much evidence to suggest that formal childcare is rarely available to meet this ‘non-standard' demand.
The research found that demand for formal childcare at atypical times was substantial: 67% of parents working atypical hours struggled to find childcare to meet their needs. This included 66% who struggled to access childcare after 6pm, 53% before 8am, 40% at weekends, and 32% overnight. Furthermore, being able to access childcare at short notice was also a significant issue for many parents (four in ten).
The research also found numerous case studies which show how barriers to providing atypical hours childcare can be overcome, notably through childminder networks which have a range of availability which allows the childcare coordinator to find someone who is available at relatively short notice. Furthermore, the report also highlights the necessity of support at local authority level, helping providers to identify and attract demand and ensure that they are financially viable.
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Download the executive summary
Keeping mum: childcare as a vote winning issue
Daycare Trust, together with Bounty Parenting Club, undertook an online opinion survey of nearly 2,500 mothers. The survey asked how their voting choices would be affected by political parties' policies on childcare. It also asked what factors were important to mothers when deciding on childcare, their views on the benefits of childcare, whether they were aware of the free early education entitlement for all three and four year olds and covered issues about the affordability of childcare and returning to work.
This briefing provides an analysis of the survey results, and discusses the implications for the 2010 General Election and future policy developments on childcare and support for families.
Dowload the briefing.
Quality costs: Paying for high quality early childhood education and care
Daycare Trust in collaboration with the Social Market Foundation and the Institute of Fiscal Studies were commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation to explore and establish what constitutes good quality early years education for children in England and Wales, in relation to what parents can afford to pay.
Download the Executive Summary
The full report is available to purchase. Please visit our online shop to purchase this title.
The final report suggesting alternative models for high quality universal education by 2020, and recommendations for how this can be funded, is accompanied by five working papers:
- Working Paper 1: What is high quality early childhood education and care? - Maxine Hill and Emma Knights, Daycare Trust.
- Working Paper 2: What is the cost of quality? - Sandra Gruescu, Social Market Foundation.
- Working Paper 3: What do parents pay? - Kate Goddard, Daycare Trust.
- Working Paper 4: International comparisons of high quality early childhood education and care - Sandra Gruescu, Social Market Foundation.
- Working Paper 5: Funding options for high quality early childhood education and care - Mike Brewer, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Childcare Advance: scoping the need for help with up-front costs
For many parents, the requirement to pay up-front childcare costs including fees in advance, deposits, retainers and administration fees to secure a place with a childcare provider creates a significant barrier to starting or returning to work.
The Childcare Advance project, funded by Friends Provident Foundation, investigates the help currently available to families when faced with up-front childcare costs, the extent to which parents experience difficulty meeting these costs and models potential options for a sustainable scheme offering financial help to parents with these costs.
The research findings support the need for a national scheme offering financial help to parents with up-front childcare costs and suggest that a low cost loan delivered by not-for-profit lenders is the best way of supporting parents, both for long term sustainability of the scheme and for offering a better fit with financial help with ongoing childcare costs available to parents.
A second stage of this project is recommended during which different delivery models can be trialled and evaluated. At least one pilot should be an employer delivered loan scheme and another delivered as a partnership of a community organisation or Family Information Service and a Credit Union or Community Development Finance Initiative. Daycare Trust are currently seeking opportunities to pursue this second stage.
Download the report summary.
ISBN: 978 1 906245 50 2
Download the full report.
ISBN: 978 0 9558819 9 2
Childcare nation?: Progress on childcare strategy and priorities for the future
ISBN: 1 871088 96 8
This comprehensive progress report on the Government's childcare strategy has been compiled by Daycare Trust and the National Centre for Social Research. As well as charting progress to date on delivering the strategy, the report spells out what still needs to be done to ensure access to childcare for all who need it.
Childcare Nation? has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation and brings together a review of existing research and of the range of statistics relevant to the Government's childcare strategy. The literature review and desk research have been supplemented by new secondary analysis of two key data sources: the Parents' Childcare Survey series and the Childcare Providers Survey series. The report addresses six key areas: Outcomes for children; Quality and the childcare workforce; The state of childcare provision; Parents' work patterns; Changes in patterns of childcare use and Childcare costs.
A summary of the comprehensive progress report on the Government's childcare strategy is available.
The full report is available to purchase. Please visit our online shop to purchase this title.
Listening to Families
Listening to black and minority ethnic parents about childcare
'Listening to black and minority ethnic parents about childcare' is one in a series of papers presenting the findings from the Daycare Trust Listening to families project. This report explores the findings from eight focus groups conducted with parents from different black and minority ethnic groups, asking them about their use of, views on, and needs for childcare.
Listening to parents of disabled children about childcare
'Listening to parents of disabled children' about childcare is one in a series of papers presenting the findings from the Daycare Trust Listening to families project. This report explores the findings from focus groups conducted with parents of children with disabilities and special educational needs around London, asking them about their use of, views on, and needs for childcare
Listening to lone parents about childcare
'Listening to lone parents about childcare' presents the findings from a series of focus groups conducted by Daycare Trust as part of the Listening to families project.
Listening to children about childcare
'Listening to children about childcare' presents the findings from a series of interviews and focus groups with children between the ages of 6 and 12 (up to age 18 for those with disabilities) about what they think about childcare. In the focus groups we explored with children their own experiences of childcare, their likes and dislikes, as well as their views on childcare more generally and what it means for children today.
The full reports in the Listening to Families series are available to purchase. Please visit our online shop for details.
The Listening to Families research series is funded the the Department for Children, Schools and Families
Childcare for children with additional needs
The London Development Agency commissioned Daycare Trust to undertake two pieces of research exploring the childcare needs of children with disabilities and special educational needs:
Listening to providers about childcare for children with disabilities and special educational needs
Listening to parents of children with disabilities and special educational needs
Ensuring Equality Project
Conducted between 2005 and 2008 the Ensuring Equality project, funded by the Esmée Fairburn Foundation, has aimed to explore the use of childcare services among black and minority ethnic (BME) families, raise awareness of the specific needs of different ethnic minority families, and make the voices of these families heard. Daycare Trust has produced five reports as part of this project:
This paper provides an overview of the work and findings of the whole Ensuring Equality project and highlights some of the challenges facing BME communities in accessing formal childcare services, and some of the approaches that are being taken to address these challenges.
Local approaches to ensuring childcare for black and minority families
This report examines what is being done at a local level to monitor ethnicity within childcare settings and how this data is being used to increase the take-up of childcare by BME families.
Ensuring Equality: The black and minority ethnic childcare workforce
This report, part of the Ensuring Equality Project, presents findings from a series of focus groups with childcare workers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The aim of the research was to explore with childcare workers their views on: engaging black and minority ethnic communities with childcare services; and recruiting and retaining childcare workers from black and minority ethnic communities, and the extent to which this addresses the question of how to increase uptake of childcare among different ethnic groups. The report provides some interesting insights into how childcare workers address different ethnic and cultural needs in childcare settings and their views on the importance of having an ethnically diverse childcare workforce.
Listening to black and minority ethnic parents about childcare
Reports on parents' comments gathered at eight focus groups carried out across England in 2006-07.
Ensuring Equality - black and minority ethnic families' views on childcare
Looks at the views and experiences of black and minority ethnic families and brought together qualitative and quantitative research.
The full reports in the Ensuring Equality series are available to purchase. Please visit our online shop for details.
Childcare for adult learners in further education
This project, funded by The Nuffield Foundation, looked at the funding available for childcare costs for adult learners, studying on a course of further education.
Access to further education (FE) and training is crucial if parents are to gain stable and well-paid employment. It is also vital for reducing child poverty. As the Leitch report states: “ensuring everyone has the opportunity to improve their skills is the best way to improve social mobility in the UK”. Access to affordable childcare is essential if parents are to be able to undertake FE and training, and childcare costs can be 'a formidable barrier'.
During the 2006-07 academic year, Daycare Trust’s Information Service received a number of calls reporting a shortage of childcare services and funding for FE learners. This has continued at the start of the 2007/08 autumn term. We are concerned that learners and potential learners are not gaining access to the childcare they need. This will have a negative impact on their ability to study and therefore obtain sustainable employment. If the Government is serious about enabling people to improve their skills, this ambition must be matched with childcare support and funding.
As the Government strives to get more parents into work and training, our new briefing paper highlights problems with funding support for childcare for adults in further education. Childcare for adult learners in further education examines the main sources of funding help with childcare available to student parents aged 20+ across the UK. In particular, it calls for reforms to the Learner Support Fund, the discretionary grant that is the main source of financial help for English student parents who need childcare.