8 Sep, 2015

Free childcare pledge may lead to fewer nursery places, says union

The Guardian | Early years education | Richard Adams Education editor | 8 September 2015

National Association of Head Teachers says state primaries could cut size of nursery classes by half to cope with underfunded pledge of longer hours.

The government’s high-profile pledge to double the amount of free childcare for working parents may backfire, after school leaders warned that a “perverse outcome” of the policy could be state schools cutting the number of nursery places they offer.

Employed parents will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare from 2017, up from the 15 hours they can currently receive. A report by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said its members could cut in half the number of children in nursery classes to cope with the longer hours.


The impact of the new policy – a key Conservative party election pledge in the general election – could affect many of the 300,000 three- and four-year-olds who attend nursery classes in state schools in England, and push a significant proportion into more expensive private childcare.

More than half of the nearly 800 school leaders who responded to the union said they did not have the capacity to take on more nursery children – although a quarter said they could increase nursery classes if the DfE funded new buildings and expansion.

Independent schools with nurseries, which have around 23,000 places for children aged three, are also said to be concerned that the funding is insufficient, meaning many are unlikely to take part in the scheme.