Early years funding based on 'flimsy' data, Alliance warns following Deloitte data publication

The Pre-school Learning Alliance has criticised the government for basing new early years funding rates on "flimsy" data, following the publication of research on the cost of delivering childcare undertaken by Deloitte on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE).

The Deloitte research was used to inform a DfE review into the cost of delivering childcare which was published in November 2015 and used to determine the new average early years funding rates due to come into effect in April.

The publication of the data comes over a year after it was initially requested by the Alliance through a Freedom of Information Act request, which was twice refused by the DfE. In November, the Information Commissioner's Office rejected the DfE's arguments against publishing the data and ordered the Department to issue a new response to the Alliance's request.

The data consists of a Deloitte survey questionnaire, a spreadsheet of the survey responses – with some redactions where the DfE deemed there to be information that could identify respondents – and a summary of responses to follow-up interviews. It is available to view at https://www.pre-school.org.uk/deloittedata

Commenting on the data, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said:

"We have long argued that the government's Cost of Childcare review was a woefully inadequate basis on which to calculate new early years funding rates, and the publication of the Deloitte data has only reinforced these concerns.

"Given that this research has been used to underpin early years funding rates which will remain in place until 2020, we would have expected it to be nothing less than a robust, methodologically sound piece of data-gathering that included a detailed breakdown of provider delivery costs.

"Instead we have a piece of research based on a very small, non-random sample of providers who have been presented with a set of very broad, poorly-worded questions asking them to estimate their delivery costs, with no specific guidance as to what these estimates should include. How can anyone in government think that this as an adequate approach to information-gathering? It's little wonder that it took over a year and the intervention of the ICO for the Department to release this data.

"And of course, this is all the more concerning given that the other main source of delivery costs data used by the DfE was departmental surveys from 2012 and 2013 - i.e. information that will be up to five years out of date by the time the 30-hour offer rolls out.

"How can the government, in all good conscience, gamble the future of the early years sector on such flimsy data? How can it defend its decision to freeze funding rates – with no formal review – for the next three years, when the basis for current funding rates is so weak? This is simply not an acceptable approach to policy-making."

Commenting on the delay in receiving the data, Neil said:

"Given that the government has stressed the importance of transparency in policy-making, it is shameful that it took the ICO stepping in for the DfE to release this data.

"The decisions the government has made on early years funding are having a significant impact across the sector, and providers have the right to know – and to have the opportunity to interrogate – what those decisions have been based on.

"We hope that this is the last time we have to take such an approach with the DfE."


For further information, or to interview Neil Leitch, please contact:

Emma Caldwell
Pre-school Learning Alliance
T: 020 7697 2598
E: emma.caldwell@pre-school.org.uk


Editor's Notes:

  • The Pre-school Learning Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.
  • The Alliance represents 14,000 member settings and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training and accreditation schemes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.