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89% of three- and four-year-olds access formal childcare

By Rachel Lawler
89% of three- and four-year-olds are accessing formal childcare, according to new statistics from the Department for Education. The statistics were revealed as part of a new survey of parents, which also highlighted some differences in the number of children accessing childcare.
Only 44% of families earning less than £10,000 a year access formal childcare, compared to 69% of families earning £45,000 or more. In the most deprived areas, just 47% of children access formal childcare compared to 67% in the least deprived areas.
The survey also highlighted the different reasons why families use formal childcare. For children under five, 64% of parents said they were using childcare to allow themselves to work, look for work or to study and 58% said they used the service for the child’s social or educational development.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “The Department for Education’s parent survey once again highlights how important childcare is to children and families across the country, with 96% of four-year-olds and 93% of three-year-olds now in receipt of government-funded early education.
"However, the fact that only 44% of families earning below £10,000 per year are receiving formal childcare, compared to 69% of families earning £45,000 or more, shows that much more needs to be done to ensure that those children from lower income families have equal access to affordable, quality care and education.
"It is disappointing, therefore, that instead of looking to address this trend, the government chose to introduce a 30 hours policy which entrenches, rather than tackles, inequality within the childcare system. Not only does the policy exclude families on the lowest end of the income scale completely, while allowing working families earning up to £100,000 to benefit from the scheme, but chronic underfunding means that many childcare providers are unable to offer 30 hours funded places without asking families to subsidise the funding shortfall, forcing them to give priority to parents who are able to afford to pay for additional good and services.
"As a result, we risk creating a situation where an even greater number of disadvantaged children – arguably, those who have most to gain from early years education – are unable to access it. Given the government's recent renewed commitment to improving social mobility, we hope it will take note of these findings and ensuring that it invests what's needed to ensure that quality childcare and early education is available to all families that need it."  ​
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