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Funding concerns reduce take-up of funded places

By Rachel Lawler
child outdoors playing funded childcare
A new report from the Department of Education (DfE) has revealed that current funding levels are preventing more families from benefitting from funded early education places.
The report looks into why take-up of funded places for three- and four-year-olds has declined in recent years, with researchers speaking to parents and providers.
Funding concerns
Funding was cited as a significant barrier by providers, who said that the Early Years Funding Formula (EYNFF) has “altered the funding context” of the early education offer.
Providers also told researchers that the new funding formula had resulted in local authorities “scaling back” activities including “outreach and brokerage”, which they said was important for increasing take-up.
Funding for two-year-olds was also a common concern, with providers noting the higher staffing ratios and amount of space needed.
Application process
Parents were also concerned about funding levels, with some wary of “hidden costs” associated with funded places. Others were put off by the application process, while many were unaware of the offer or confused about the eligibility criteria.
Lower take-up in London
Take-up of funded places for both two-year-olds and three- and four-year-olds has been lower in London than in other areas. Just 84% of three- and four-year-olds children access a funded place in London, compared to 94% nationally and just 61% of eligible two-year-olds in the capital access their funded place, compared to 72% across England.
The researchers noted that funding concerns are “most acute in London”, which could explain the declining levels of take-up in the capital.
The researchers have suggested to the DfE that “addressing the funding pressures that may be undermining sufficiency” could increase that take-up.
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