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Early years childcare

Information for organisations who are providing, or are planning to provide early years childcare services in Leicester.

Early year and childcare services

We have a statutory role to secure sufficient childcare places, as far as reasonably practicable, to meet the needs of parents and carers for children aged 0-14 (up to 18 for disabled children).

The Childcare Sufficiency Assessment allows us to:

  • map the supply and demand of early years and childcare services across the city;
  • identify target areas where there are gaps in provision; and
  • identify key priorities for us to focus on going forward.

We do not directly commission early years and childcare services in the council. However, we work in close partnership with the private, voluntary and independent group-care settings, childminders and the school sector, to ensure we fulfil our statutory duty and meet the needs of our diverse community.

To achieve sufficient good quality places for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds, Funded Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) service provision is a particular priority. This provision is for:

  • eligible 2-year olds (up to 570 hours over a year in the term after their 2nd birthday);
  • all 3 and 4-year olds to access their universal entitlement to early education provision (up to 570 hours over a year in the term after their 3rd birthday); and
  • eligible 3 and 4-year olds (for working parents as determined by an online application process with HMRC) to access their extended entitlement of 570 hours a year in addition to the universal entitlement, making a total of 1,140 hours a year. 

Current need

Current need is set in our Childcare sufficiency assessment 2019 (PDF).

Overall Leicester has sufficient early years and childcare places for 2, 3 and 4-year old FEEE places. However, there are areas that have a deficit of places and gaps in provision.

Four cluster areas have been identified: 

  • South cluster: Saffron (3 and 4-year olds)
  • West cluster: Western (2, 3 and 4-year olds)
  • East cluster: Thurncourt, Humberstone and Hamilton (2, 3 and 4-year olds)
  • North West cluster: Fosse (3 and 4 year olds)

Where are we going?

The childcare market is ever-changing. Poor quality outcomes can directly result in a reduction in the availability of funded places. Socio- economic factors also contribute to trends in parental demand. Whilst we have the findings from the CSA (2019) analysis, what then evolved in 2020 could not have been foreseen. The Covid pandemic significantly affected the early years sector. We therefore need to consider the effect this has had on the market, and the sustainability of the early years sector as we move into 2021.

Risks and concerns arising from the impact of COVID-19 on the childcare market

There have been a range of negative impacts on the sector:

  • Negative impact on demand, on parents returning to services and on ability to recruit to new places. The autumn term is usually the highest term for two year old take up;
  • Sustainability of out of school provision – these services have had a significant proportion of the year in which they were prohibited from opening because of government guidance during the pandemic, but had limited, if any, access to financial support;
  • Larger providers, who draw a significant proportion of their income from fee paying places will have had their income significantly affected;
  • Potential for a detrimental impact being felt for settings if they have to close due to positive cases of the virus or due to localised or national lockdown measures being reintroduced. This has an impact on staffing as they may require furloughing and /or the number of staff available to work may reduce because they may be isolating. Parent confidence will be further reduced and income lost, which may lead to a reduction in available places;
  • The introduction of the 30 hour extended entitlement led providers to a further reliance on FEEE funding income, as an increased proportion of parents did not have to pay enhanced rates for wrap around costs; and
  • This all has a negative impact on children’s social and emotional well-being, learning and development, and school readiness.

Key areas of strategic focus  

We will:

  • work across services and with partners to agree a two-year old take up strategy. This will include working with parents to encourage take up of their Funded Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) and promoting the importance of helping children to become school ready;
  • continue our quality improvement work with the sector to secure availability of high-quality places across the city;
  • continue work with partners to deliver 30-hour FEEE places; and
  • work across services to develop accessible, inclusive provision and the availability of places for children with SEND, particularly for 2-year FEEE places. 

Proposed monitoring and reporting, on termly take-up and place availability into 2021

We continue to offer business support for settings; targeting providers who have identified risks.  We will:

  • monitor attendance and headcount figures to reflect on demand and recruitment to places;
  • engage with the sector to providing opportunities to seek providers feedback on challenges and concerns; and
  • review supply and demand from data available at the end of the autumn term. This will enable us to continue to understand and update our information on risks in the childcare sector.

What this means for providers

Despite the negative impact of the pandemic, it’s evident that in some parts of the city we are experiencing growth in the market. We would encourage any potential or existing providers intending on expanding or developing new childcare to contact us to discuss their plans at an early stage.

The Early Education Development (EED) team can provide support and guidance on:

  • Childcare Sufficiency Assessment priority areas for childcare and potential models of delivery;
  • the pre-Ofsted registration processes;
  • business support; and
  • sector specific tools and resources.

Further information on support: Childcare professionals Early Education Development -

0116 454 4190