Parents’ perspectives of childcare and early years

LetterThis week Polly received a letter in the post from the Department for Education (DfE)! She has been randomly selected by Ipsos Mori, an independent research organisation commissioned by the DfE, to complete an online survey about parental views of childcare and out of school activities. The letter arrived with a free reusable shopping bag (more on that in a later post!) as a potential sweetener, along with the suggestion that it’s important to take part to “have your say in shaping services for families and children”.

Polly has now begun completing the survey, though hasn’t finished it yet. The questions begin by asking about awareness of entitlement to free early years education and also awareness of Tax-Free Childcare. Next they ask about the frequency of educational activities at home (like how much reading, activities with numbers and words are done at home, and how many books aimed at under fives are in the house). They then move on to opinions on the childcare options in the local area, for instance in relation to criteria like affordability, quality and suitability. Following this there are questions about how local childcare options might impact on decisions about working. Then finally there are questions about personal information such as ethnicity, levels of participant qualification and their financial circumstances.

This isn’t a new survey but an annual one; the Department for Education have collected and published data about parental views of childcare and early years since 2004. The report published about the 2018 results indicates that the questions asked of parents this year are broadly similar, although there have been some changes both to the questions asked and to the survey methods. This is as a result of a consultation carried out by the government last year which aimed to consider perspectives on both the Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents and also the similar Survey of Childcare and Early Years Providers. For instance, in previous years the survey has been carried out face-to-face, whereas in 2019 Ipsos Mori are trialling a web mode version and telephone surveys. Changes have also been made to the sample. In the 2018 survey the target sample was 6000 parents of 0-14 year olds (in actual fact the achieved sample was close to this, with 5922 participants) and this is the same proposed sample for the 2020 survey. But for 2019 the target sample is 5000 parents of 0-4 year olds, with the aim that this “will enable more in-depth analysis of early years policy priorities and various family and child demographics within the 0-4 age range” (2018, p.4).

We’d recommend you have a look at last year’s report on parental views of childcare and also the survey consultation document. We’d like to know what you think of the changes and the survey overall – do you think the right questions are being asked? Do you think it’s important that research like this is taking place? We’d love to hear your views.

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