Thinktank’s report reveals quality gap as government prepares to relax rules over childminding
New figures show that people living in the most deprived areas are receiving worse childcare than those in wealthy areas.
The Policy Exchange report finding comes as the early years minister, Liz Truss, prepares to relax rules restricting the number of children childminders can look after.
The coalition has yet to finalise plans to help with the cost of childcare as the Liberal Democrats work to ensure the scheme contains elements to help poorer families. Experts warned the Lib Dems that the original plan was likely to be regressive.
Both Nick Clegg and David Cameron are eager to be seen as helping working women, a vital part of the electorate.
The Policy Exchange report due to be presented to Truss at the beginning of next week will propose: extending Teach First provision to early years (the charity helps attract bright graduates into teaching, especially in deprived areas); a requirement for councils to publish quality of provision; and simplification of the childcare element of the working tax credit.
The Resolution Foundation has also produced a report showing the extent to which the cost of childcare is a major deterrent for women to return to work.
The Policy Exchange report shows that over three-quarters (77%) of childminders were judged “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted last year compared with only 61% of childminders working in more deprived areas.
YouGov polling of 1,637 people carried out for Policy Exchange also shows that wealthier parents are much more likely to choose childcare provision based on quality rather than simply on cost.
Nearly half (47%) of people earning less than £20,000 consider cost an important factor when choosing childcare compared to 34% of people earning between £40-60,000
Under half (45%) of people earning less than £20,000 said that quality of childcare provider was important when choosing childcare providers compared with 60% of people earning between £40,000 and £60,000. The polling also found that most parents (60% compared with 19%) would not swap childcare provider if they were to raise the ratio of children per childcare worker.
Truss is expected to recommend that the ratio be increased to improve the pay and career prospects of childcare staff.
The Policy Exchange report will urge the government to put fresh impetus on improving the quality of early years teaching. Academic studies have shown that although better qualified childcare staff improve the outcomes for children, only one in 10 childminders and just over one in five daycare staff hold a qualification above an A-level equivalent.
The report will propose extending Teach First to early years to attract bright graduates, especially in the more deprived areas of the country. Teach First in schools has been deemed hugely successful.
At present, Ofsted carries out inspections every four years while local authorities have no obligation to publish data about the quality of childcare providers in their area.
The report will say the government could make at least £160m worth of savings by reducing error and fraud in the childcare element of working tax credits. Setting up an online account for working parents similar to the system used for childcare vouchers would enable the government to claw back any tax credit money unspent on childcare.