In 2017, free childcare for aged 3 to 4 year olds will see an increase from 15 hours to 30 free hours.
This will allow parents more freedom to work, and relieve the stress in other areas of family life. At the minute, research by Aviva shows that in fact 4% of women are actually ‘paying to work’ and would be better off staying at home. This shows how difficult life still is for a woman to go back to work. The average wage by the lower earner left after nursery costs was £243 a month, approximately half of the rent of a family 3 bed house in Chesterfield. Furthermore, organised childcare benefits children’s learning as they socialise regularly at a young age, engage in scheduled activities which are targeted towards their maximum development and are taken through a standardised curriculum which means if a child struggles with certain areas, the nursery’s job is to aid development of that area.
However, on the other side the education sector has cried out that the nurseries will be overwhelmed as so far little extra funding has been proposed which will increase competitiveness for grants which are already competitive enough. Local authorities with high nursery numbers will have no choice in offering extra funding as they are stretched already e.g. Birmingham, Lanashire, Hertfordshire, Durham. The NAHT found Birmingham nursery schools will receive just short of £3.92 per child if no additional funding is provided for the extra hours. Additional funding is only available for age 2 and under, who are not affected by this change. There is also an argument that this crisis is leading to a lack of social mobility as there are more nurseries in poorer areas, who are the most likely to need more funded places.
Overall, the proposal of increased childcare hours seems, at first glance, like a wonderful idea, but if no additional funding is put in place the free childcare system could fall apart altogether.