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Funding review analysis cites ‘lack of clarity’

A ‘lack of clarity’ is indicated by responses to the government’s call for evidence on the cost of providing childcare, according to an analysis published by the Department for Education (DfE) published on Friday (2 October).

The consultation, which was launched in June and closed in August, invited information from the sector regarding the cost of delivering childcare places, requesting ‘evidence from early years providers about the factors that make up the cost of providing childcare, and how much of the total cost they represent’.

While the call for evidence did not state specifically that respondents should provide exact costs and figures, the Pre-school Learning Alliance published guidance to help providers in doing so, in order to give the government empirical evidence.

However, the analysis states that ‘the quality and completeness of the evidence submitted was wide-ranging’ and that responses ‘were often not supported by figures’.

‘This may indicate a lack of clarity around what government funding should pay for,’ the report adds.

Private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers and childminders composed the majority of respondents to the consultation.

The majority of responses (83%) cited staff-related costs as a cost driver, closely followed by running costs (79%), according to the analysis.

While the consultation is not yet complete and the report ‘does not set out the final findings’ or ‘the government’s position on the future of funding for the early years sector’, the Alliance has expressed its disappointment with the DfE’s statements.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “As we warned at the time, the scope of the consultation was far too broad, and likely to result in responses of limited practical value.

“The DfE has complained that responses ‘were often not supported by figures’ when it did not ask for figures in the original call for evidence - instead, it simply instructed providers to give ‘any information’ they wished to provide.

“As a result, the conclusions drawn from the call for evidence - that staff, rents, utilities and equipment account for a significant proportion of provider costs - are nothing new, and are likely to be of limited value to peers as they debate the Childcare Bill at report stage.”

Neil emphasised the importance of further discussions on funding being “underpinned by a detailed understanding of delivery costs”.

The DfE has been approached for further comment.