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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Dorset Childcare Sufficiency Report 2020 to 2021

Market position statement

1. Introduction to Dorset's market position statement
2. Purpose of the market position statement
3. Executive summary
4. Dorset Council context
5. The current position in Dorset
6. Local authority support to the market


1. Introduction to Dorset's market position statement

Dorset early years providers offer a diverse range of childcare provision for parents to choose from in order to work. Providers also help support Dorset's priorities and deliver a valuable service to families ensuring the best start for children and that they are ready for school.

Key priorities in our market position statement

We want Dorset to be the best place for children to grow up, where communities thrive and families are supported to be the best they can be. Building on the work of the partnership so far and through the priorities in this plan we intend to deliver that vision through the Dorset Strategic Alliance for Children and Young People. We will focus on improving outcomes for all children and young people through our 6 priorities:

  1. Best start in life.
  2. Young and thriving.
  3. Good care provision.
  4. Best education for all.
  5. Best place to live.
  6. Delivering locally.

Securing sufficient childcare

Section 6 of the Childcare Act (2006) requires all local authorities in England to make sure there's enough registered early years childcare where reasonably practicable, for working parents and those parents studying or training for employment. Sufficient childcare should be available for children aged 0 to14 (18 for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)). The Childcare Act (2016) extended the 2006 Act to include new early year’s entitlements to be delivered by local authorities to include the 30 hours offer.

2. Purpose of the market position statement

Our goal is to facilitate a diverse and active market that is flexible to the demand from families. The way that we support the market can be broken into 4 stages:  

  • understand: we gather information together so that we can better understand what is being delivered throughout Dorset.
  • plan: we map out provision and identify where there may be gaps and the size and nature of those gaps
  • do: we will support existing and new providers to set up or expand provision in areas where gaps have been identified
  • review: we will consider the data, working with partners to see how far the gaps are being closed and identify where new gaps are emerging 

3. Executive summary of Dorset childcare sufficiency assessment parent survey

Accurately assessing the supply of and demand for childcare during a pandemic is not possible. The market is constantly changing and this has continued into lockdown 3.

The majority of this work was carried out between national lockdowns 1 and 2 during August to November 2020. The demand for childcare fluctuates according to family circumstances including financial and employment changes. The supply of childcare can also fluctuate due to staffing changes, self-isolation requirements, financial sustainability and premises restrictions as a result of the pandemic.  

The quality of the supply is above national average with 99% of early years provision in Dorset judged as good or outstanding by Ofsted.

From the high number of parent responses, we know that the most significant gaps lay in the supply of wraparound provision, including provision for families of children and young people with SEND: 

  • before school 

  • after school 

  • during school holidays 

From the parents and carers who responded to the survey we know this is a particular issue in:

  • North Dorset
  • West Dorset
  • Weymouth
  • Portland

We also know there is evidence of the supply available not always meeting the needs of working parents and carers in terms of opening hours.  

Headline points of survey

The main points of the parent survey were the following:

  • overall there has been a drop in the numbers of childcare providers since the last Childcare Sufficiency Assessment. This is not currently a problem due to reduced demand from parents because of a change in working patterns and a reduction in the birth rate for the last 3 years
  • 71% of respondents to the parent survey told us they have sufficient childcare and there are very few requests to the Family Information Directory for brokerage support
  • some parents report difficulties in accessing wraparound provision including breakfast clubs, after school provision and holiday clubs particularly in the North, West and Chesil areas of Dorset
  • parents who have children with SEND and responded to the survey told us they find it difficult to find suitable childcare particularly in terms of wraparound provision for children up to aged 18
  • 89% of eligible children take up their 2-year-old funding entitlement; this is better than national average
  • 96% of 3- and 4-year-olds are accessing their early education funding entitlement; this is better than the national average
  • the quality of early years provision is good; 99% of provision is Ofsted ‘Good or above’; this is better than the national average. There are 2 group providers and 2 childminders in the county graded ‘Less than good’
  • the long-term viability of some settings could be affected by parents and carers requiring less childcare and leaving early years settings with unfilled places. Further exploration will be carried out for the local authority settings particularly considering the parent survey highlighting a challenge in finding wraparound provision in North Dorset

As a result of the childcare sufficiency assessment, we will carry out actions to support out statutory duties in the following areas:

  • early years supply and demand
  • childcare provision for children and young people with SEND
  • workforce development
  • Information, advice and guidance to families

Support for early years supply and demand in Dorset

To support early years supply and demand we will:

  • work with early years providers and schools to increase the availability of wraparound provision for children aged 0 to 14 ( or 18 if they have SEND) particularly in North Dorset, West Dorset and Chesil localities 
  • work with early years providers and schools to improve information available about wraparound provision for children aged 0 to 14 (18 if they have SEND)
  • improve the platform for all parents to search for childcare, in particular for parents of older children with SEND

Support for childcare provision for children and young people with SEND

To support childcare provision for children and young people with SEND we will:

  • digitise the application process for Early Years Special Educational Needs Inclusion Funding in collaboration with early years providers and parents as part of the Early Years SEND Strategy 
  • ensure early years providers receive information, advice and training to support children with SEND
  • collaborate with service providers and service users to inform our planning 

Upskilling the workforce and support improving outcomes for children

To upskill the workforce and support improving outcomes for children we will:

  • address gaps in knowledge and skills of the childcare workforce at a mandatory, and advanced level to provide opportunities for continued professional development 
  • ensure the workforce development strategy for early years and childcare professionals reflects the vision to deliver evidence-based interventions with a particular focus on:
    • speech language and communication needs
    • phonics
    • maths skills
    • attachment
    • school readiness
    • themes related to Ofsted inspection actions and recommendations 

Providing information, advice and guidance to families around childcare choices

To provide information, advice and guidance to families around childcare choices we will:

  • ensure the Family Information Directory is an accurate reflection of all types of early education and childcare provision available in Dorset
  • promote childcare funding streams and childcare options to families 

4. Dorset Council context

Dorset is a coastal, largely rural county with pockets of deprivation mostly in urban areas however, there is also some rural deprivation due to isolation and difficulty accessing housing, transport and essential services.

The total population of Dorset is 378, 508 (2019 mid-year estimate). This includes 74,765 children and young people aged 0-19 representing 20% of the total population. We have approximately 2,800 children with special educational needs supported through an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

There are 33 different languages spoken in Dorset schools (children with a language other than English as a first language). 9% of school age children are from black and minority ethnic communities (non-white British); this compares to 34.6% nationally. (January 2020 school census).

Live births in the Dorset Council area have been steadily dropping since 2012 from 3,296 to 2,748 in 2019; a decrease of almost 500. Locality data shows a significant drop in both Chesil and West Dorset.

Changes in the population of 0-5-year olds are shown below. As a result of this decrease we can be confident there will be a drop in demand for early years care and education. The number of:

  • 3 to 5-year-olds has dropped steadily since a high of 11,230 in 2015 to 10,550 in 2019 

  • 0 to 2-year-olds have been dropping steadily from 10,190 in 2010 to 8,970 in 2019 

5. The current childcare market position in Dorset

Supply of childcare

This section summarises our analysis of the market position. The supply of childcare can vary in different areas. Most early years and childcare providers advertise through our Family Information Directory.

Contact our Family Information Service if you need help finding childcare in your local area.

There are 339 Ofsted registered early years providers consisting of: 

  • 155 childminders 

  • 2 childcare on domestic premises 

  • 151 group providers including 2 Dorset Council nurseries 

  • 31 home childcarers (nannies) 

  • 103 wraparound providers including 1 Dorset Council after school and holiday club 

Source: Ofsted registration data March 2020 

Ofsted registration data states these providers offer a total of 6,305 full-time equivalent childcare places to parents and carers. All settings are inclusive and offer care to children with SEND.

In addition, there are: 

  • 36 early years settings managed by in schools and academies under the school Ofsted registration taking the total early years provision to 375 

  • a further 48 settings offering wraparound provision as part of their existing registration 

Demand for childcare

The take-up of funded early education in Dorset is higher than average compared to statistical neighbours, the South West and England. 89% of our eligible children are accessing this entitlement at a good or outstanding setting. This is better than the national percentage of 97%. 

An online survey with parents and carers was carried out through a variety of channels over a 5-week period in September and October 2020. The questions explored their use of formal and informal childcare, the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and costs.  There were 866 respondents of which 778 were parent or carers. 

62% of respondents (467 parents/carers) were currently using childcare. 13% (62 parents/carers) have at least one children with SEND. Of those, 38 (61%) use some form of formal childcare. 30% use group provision as their primary childcare.

We used a variety of methods to seek the views of parents and carers of children with SEND who may use childcare such as: 

  • the Dorset online SEND newsletter
  • collaboration with the Dorset Parent Carer Council (DPCC)
  • targeted social media posts with relevant SEND organisations in Dorset 

A common theme was a lack of wraparound provision for working parents before and after school, as well as school holidays that met the needs of their working pattern. Parents also commented on the affordability stating it was a factor in not being able to access suitable childcare. 

A small percentage of respondents were not clear on whether they are eligible to access certain childcare funding streams. We will carry out further targeted marketing to make sure all parents are aware of the different types of funding available.

The childcare workforce will be upskilled both internally in Dorset Council, externally with health partners and childcare providers to make sure all opportunities to inform parents and carers of funding schemes are taken. 

6. Local authority support for the childcare market

There are clear priorities to improve the outcomes for children and young people in Dorset that directly link to sufficiency of childcare for children and young people aged 0 to14, or 18 if they have SEND.  

We want to make sure early years settings are supported to deliver the ‘Best Start in Life’ and ‘Best Education for All’ as described in the Children, Young People and Families Plan 2020-23.

We want 100% of Dorset early years and childcare provision to be judged Ofsted ‘Good or above’ and remove the current 1% gap in meeting that ambition. 

To deliver these ambitions from 1 September 2020 ‘Dorset Children Thrive’ was introduced as Dorset Council’s new model for delivering Children’s Services in Dorset. The model brings together many services and support for children and families into 6 integrated locality teams across Dorset, supported by a central team of specialist services:  

  • Chesil
  • Dorchester
  • East Dorset
  • North Dorset
  • Purbeck
  • West Dorset

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