18/02/2016 06:39 GMT | Updated 17/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Majority of Nurseries 'Unlikely' to Offer Places to Meet 30 Hours Demand - but Government Still has Time to Change Their Minds

The seventh NDNA Annual Nursery Survey has just been published, summarising the state of the sector in the view of nearly 500 nurseries across England.

The sector is approaching a watershed. Our business landscape is changing forever.

The Government is about to launch its ambitious scheme to double free childcare to 30 hours per week for three and four-year-olds of working parents.

This will create the need for much more capacity in nurseries and schools and with childminders and playgroups.

It seems like great news for everyone. More free childcare for hardworking parents, giving nurseries the chance to expand and take things to the next level.

But nursery bosses are holding back. They are too worried about funding levels to commit.

We still don't know how much money per child per hour that childcare providers are set to receive for providing this service.

If it's not enough to meet the cost of their high-quality education and care, they risk accruing big losses that must be made up through fees to paying parents.

Pilots start this autumn with full roll-out next year. This is the Government's big chance to try it out and get it right.

The Government must really seize these pilots as an opportunity to trial innovative funding solutions and show that their plans are workable and sustainable.

By doing this, the Government can still change the sector's minds about 30 free hours.

As things stand, the majority of owners and managers are nervous.

Our survey reveals just 45% of nurseries, fewer than 5 in 10, currently say they are likely to extend the number of free hours on offer.

However, the truth is that the Government needs our sector fully on board to deliver on its pre-election promises to families.

According to Department for Education figures, the private, voluntary and independent sector currently delivers funded places for 674,000 two, three and four-year-olds in England, providing 64% of three and four-year-olds with their free place.

This is more than schools and short-session provision such as playgroups combined.

Day nurseries will be the Government's biggest delivery partner and the Government will become the sector's biggest customer.

Each depends on the other to make 30 free hours a success.

Childcare providers are already fully behind the principle of this reform and they are really keen to be able to offer more free childcare to families.

NDNA is calling on the Government to harness that willingness by guaranteeing an economically-viable hourly rate for delivery.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, pledged an extra £300m for childcare in his Spending Review in November.

That was just a starting point. We need assurances that every penny will get to nurseries.

Early years funding must be ringfenced with local authorities funded equally across the country and 'top slicing' of funding before it reaches nursery frontlines strictly limited.

We're calling for the Early Years Pupil Premium, extra funding made available to settings with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, is raised from £300 per child per year to the £1,400 that schools receive.

We also want nurseries to be able to bid for Government money for capital expansion, as schools are able to.

With these measures in place, nurseries will be in a position to say: "Count us in!"