In the 2015 general election, all the main UK political parties pledged to extend free childcare. In fact, the UK government spends almost £2 billion every year to provide universal, part-time, pre-school education to children aged three and four.
This will be expanded from 15 hours to 30 hours a week costing the taxpayer £6 billion a year.
One reason given by the Conservatives for free childcare was just to reduce the bill paid by the parents. But another was that it would improve educational outcomes for the child.
Likewise, I remember Labour MP Lucy Powell, in particular, was never off my radio and TV banging on about how childcare is great, positively spiffing for children’s educational development. And that it is even better for poorer children. Childcare was going to improve social mobility, close the gap between rich and poor, cure cancer and stop the seas from rising (OK, I made those last two up).
It turns out that this was a huge pile of horse manure. A stinking, wafting pile of muck. It was confirmed in The Economic Journal that the provision of free childcare generates no benefit in educational attainment to children by the time they turn 11. That is none. Zero. NADDA.
There were some positive effects measured at age 5 and 7 but as usual, as I have found in every, every single study done on pre-school childcare, they can never beat the ‘fade out factor’. As the children get older any benefit (and even that was small) disappears by age 11.
To make matters worse, the study found, “that lower socio-economic status children have increased participation in formal pre-school, most switching out of care by parents, friends and family. However, contrary to expectations, disadvantaged children do not benefit substantively more from the free entitlement than their more affluent peers.”
So these children were removed from their care of devoted parents, loyal friends and doting grandparents to be placed in nursery for no educational benefit to occur. In fact, they were more likely to be put in poor quality nursery settings than their richer toddlers (of course, they were).
Now you might be a person who does not care much for the childcare debate. But you should care about how government spends your tax money.
The Government sets out a policy, saying it will cause this benefit to happen. We will spend £2 billion a year and counting to make this happen but, in fact, it does not happen. It does not even come close.
And do we ever get a follow up by the ‘mainstream media’? Does anyone ever say, hey there Dave, about that £2 billion you spent on outcomes you never achieved. So what’s with that? It was ignored by all but the Daily Mail, because it does not fit the BBC narrative that childcare is a panacea for all of society’s ills.