I am announcing today plans to implement the Government’s commitment to extension of the free early education entitlement for three and four-year-olds to 15 hours each week for 38 weeks a year.
A longer entitlement, delivered more flexibly, will give children an even better start in life than the current arrangements and will give parents greater choice in balancing their work and family life. That is why over the next CSR period we are making funding available to enable every local authority to deliver 15 hours free early education a week to all 3 and 4 year olds for 38 weeks of the year, and to ensure the options available for using it are more flexible.
The extension will be phased in over the three years of the CSR period. Twenty pathfinder local authorities have been delivering the extended flexible entitlement since April 2007, assessing the demand for different patterns of provision, and exploring ways of working that enable greater flexibility in a diverse childcare market. Another 14 local authorities have been selected to join this group as a second wave of pathfinders, starting in September 2008. These authorities are: the London boroughs of Hackney, Lambeth and Brent, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Salford, Kirklees, Middlesbrough, North-East Lincolnshire, Luton, Durham, Southampton, Nottingham City and Cornwall.
All local authorities not involved in the pathfinder phase will be funded to deliver 15 hours more flexible provision to their most disadvantaged children from September 2009. A year later the rollout will be completed, with every three and four-year-old eligible to receive 15 hours free per week, to be delivered as flexibly as possible in response to parental demand from September 2010.
The extension of the free entitlement and more flexible delivery will be funded through a new investment of £80 million/£170 million/£340 million over 2008-11, which will be made available through the standards fund.
This funding is over and above the amount already provided for the free early education entitlement as part of the dedicated schools grant. This large injection of additional funding emphasises the Government’s commitment to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life and to help as many families as possible escape poverty and balance work and family life effectively.