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Government responds to funding petition - EYE responds to their response!

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

On 20 December the government issued a response to the petition for increased funding for the early years (Here is the link if you have not yet read their response: Increase funding for early years settings - Petitions (

And here is our response to their response...

The government writes that it has spent over 3.5 billion per year in each of the past three years, and that over a million children are benefitting from the ‘record’ investment.

Let’s do some maths.

According to government data for 2022: 1) There are 135,400 two-year-olds eligible for 15 hours 2) There are 1.2 million - 3&4-year-olds eligible for 15 hours 3) There are 348,100 3&4-year-olds eligible for 30 hours

These hours are calculated over 38 weeks. The total amount of hours follows: 1) 135,400 x 15 x 38 = 77,178,000 2) 1,200,000 x 15 x 38 = 684,000,000 3) 348,100 x 30 x 38 = 396,834,000

Total of number of eligible hours is 1,158,012,000 £3,500,000,000 (3.5 billion) divided by 1,158,012,000 = 3.02

This is £3.02 per hour per child, on average, so presumably they must count on a good proportion not actually taking up their place as the average level of funding received by providers is over £4.

Not only does this ‘record’ amount fail to cover the funding of every eligible child, it does not even remotely match the costs of running an early years setting. If the hourly rate paid by the government had increased by the same percentages as NMW (a cost set by the government, and then covered by their own ‘price setting’), the cost of a place would be £8.73.

The government goes on to say that it understands that hardworking parents rely on ‘childcare’. It doesn’t, however, mention anything about the children themselves, or how they might benefit from early years education. Nor does it mention the extraordinary brain growth of a child from birth to five (from 25% to 90% of eventual size). Or that the experiences of children in their first five years can affect their future mental health and ability to form relationships.

When you exclude the children from consideration, early years education for children becomes ‘just childcare’, which is a service for parents. While the two things can work together, the term ‘childcare’ is very damaging. It suggests that early years teachers are merely babysitting children in order that their parents can do the important jobs that pay tax. It is both offensive to early years teachers, and to children. The term ‘childcare' suggests that children are merely obstacles to work. It undervalues the children’s future contributions to society and this undervaluation is a catastrophe in the making.

Early years settings are inspected by OFSTED; the Office for Standards in Education. With numerous settings rated good and outstanding, this suggests that the EY sector understands its role in a young child’s education. Sadly, the government doesn’t appear to do the same. The frustration at societal attitudes is demonstrated by the recruitment crisis, and the fact that staff are leaving in droves for more well-respected and better paid careers. Claiming to be proud of our ‘childcare sector’ is a contradiction in terms. This is a sector full of educators and professionals. Not babysitters.

Similarly, the government’s response also contradicts itself by announcing a paltry 21p increase for two-year-olds and 17p per hour for the three/four-year-olds. In percentage terms this is well below inflation and doesn’t come anywhere near to the amount needed to hit the cost of £8.73 per hour. Additional funding of £180,000,000 (£180 million) is merely 15.5p per hour. In no other sector do we discuss price rises in pennies. The government continues with its laughable ‘support’ by announcing a mere 1% increase for some councils in 23/24. With inflation at approximately 11% and the base amount already almost 100% underfunded in some counties, insisting that the term ‘free’ is applied to EYE places is unrealistic and potentially amounts to false advertising. We have lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency as we believe that the government is falsely advertising ‘free’ places when there is no possible way that these places can be provided for free.

In summary, we challenge the government’s claims that it is committed to the future of the EY sector. The research projects previously funded by the government were consequently ignored when they showed that the sector was underfunded, and the DfE tried to hide the information from the public, despite a FOI request. This eventually found in the favour of the FOI applicant at court. There is certainly no robust evidence to show that high quality EY education can be provided on the amount of money that the government is currently paying.

As part of the APPG for Early Years we are involved with the working groups and meetings. We are sure that the hardworking MPs who organise these meetings do feed the messages to the heart of government. However, it is apparent that these messages continue to be ignored.

The solution is relatively simple. Either fund Early Years Education properly, or call it subsidised. Remove the term ‘childcare’ as per most OECD countries who have a successful EY sector, and finally, put the children at the heart of your decisions. When the children become the focus, when we decide what we feel is best for THEM, the solutions become apparent and simple.

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