Nursery closures rocket by 153% since 30 ‘free’ hour policy began

The number of nurseries closing in England has jumped by 153% since the launch of the flagship policy giving three and four year olds 30 hours of paid-for childcare per week.

According to analysis by National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), 28% of closures were in communities within the 20% most deprived areas of the country.18/19 - 17/18 closure maps

More than 7,250 children have been affected by the upheaval of a nursery closing this year and more than a quarter (27%) of those places were in the most deprived areas of England.

NDNA research carried out in September 2018 reported a 66% increase in nursery closures in the year since 30 hours of funded childcare was brought in. Over the past year (September 2018 to August 2019), the rate has continued to rise by 53%. This represents an increase of 153% overall since September 2017 when the 30 hours policy was fully rolled out.  

Almost half of the closures – 46% - were in areas with the lowest funding rate from central government of £4.30 per child per hour. The vast majority (87%) had a funding rate of less than £5 per hour.

Regional variations were evident, with the most closures in North West, followed by Yorkshire and Humber, then West Midlands. At the same time, only 14% of closures and 18% of affected child places were in the least deprived parts of the country. 

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “It’s very upsetting when any nursery has to make the decision to close its doors. It can be heart-breaking for children and their families who have to try to find alternative arrangements.

“Any break in their continuity of care can be damaging for children at a crucial stage of their development. It also has a knock-on effect on parents being able to work and leaves dedicated early years professionals searching for another job.

“We have looked at where the closures are taking place and there’s a correlation between closures and low funding rates from central government to local authorities. It’s largely down to the government not putting enough investment into this vote-winning policy for parents.

“We’re also extremely concerned about the numbers of closures in areas of deprivation – these are areas where children could really benefit from having access to high quality early education to close the attainment gap.

“These figures are only those we have managed to collate but we believe the true figure could be much higher.

“After three years of stagnant funding as well as consistent pressure to address the challenges the sector faces the Chancellor has now promised to increase the hourly rates. However, we will wait to see the detail of where this additional money will go and for many early years settings and families it will come too late. 

“In addition to increasing the funding, an immediate measure that the Government could take is to exempt all nurseries from business rates to help them with sustainability. Business rates penalise nurseries for the space they give children to play, learn and grow. Governments in Scotland and Wales have recognised this and already offer nursery businesses 100% rates relief.” 

Closures by IMD rank table

 NDNA’s analysis also uncovered:
  • 16% of nursery closures this year were in areas that are among the most deprived 10% places in England 
  • 28% of nursery closures this year were in areas that are among the most deprived 20% places in England  
  • 35% of nursery closures this year were in areas that are among the most deprived 30% places in England  
  • 13% of children’s places lost were from nurseries in the most deprived 10% of areas in England
  • 27% of children’s places lost were from nurseries in the most deprived 20% of areas in England
  • 33% of children’s places lost were from nurseries in the most deprived 30% of areas in England
  • By comparison, 14% of nursery closures and 18% of lost children’s places were in communities in the 20% most affluent areas in England 

An explanation of the figures:

NDNA figures show that from September 2016 to August 2017, there were 73 closures in England; from September 2017 to August 2018 this had increased by 66% to 121 closures; from September 2018 to August 2019 NDNA recorded 185 closures, an increase of 53% on the previous year and 153% since September 2016, the year before 30 hour policy began. 

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