There is no basis for comparison between figures set out in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report and funding provided by local authorities for delivery of the free entitlement. Free entitlement funding is intended to deliver high-quality provision for three and four-year-olds, based on the core foundation stage curriculum, and in accordance with the day care standards. The figure quoted in the report is based on a small sample of local authorities. It refers to an hourly per head rate in children’s centres and represents the cost of delivering child care for children aged between birth and five. For under-threes, the child: staff ratio is necessarily lower, and the cost of provision therefore higher.
Government invests some £3 billion per year in delivering the free entitlement through a diverse child care market that offers real choice and responsive services to children and their families. This funding is sufficient to ensure high-quality provision for every eligible three and four-year-old. Local authorities have discretion over how they fund provision, taking account of local needs and market dynamics.
Future funding for the free entitlement, like that of all Government spending, will be determined by the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. The consultation on the future of early years, school and 14-16 funding, launched this week, invites views on options for the future funding mechanisms for the free entitlement.