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More Affordable Childcare

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2013

Today the Government are publishing “More affordable childcare”, which sets out our plans for improving the supply of affordable child care.

Reliable and affordable child care is vital to giving parents the choice to get into and remain in work. We know that for many parents, before and after school and holiday care is the most difficult and costly to find.

“More affordable childcare” sets out the Government’s plans to help working parents access the child care they need when they need it, in particular by:

helping schools to offer affordable after school and holiday care, either alone or working with private and voluntary providers;

enabling nurseries to expand by reducing red tape and removing planning restrictions;

ensuring that childminders and nurseries that are good or outstanding can automatically receive Government funding for two, three and four-year-olds; and

supporting parents to access more informal care.

We want to encourage more schools to follow the examples of trailblazers like Harris Academies and the Free School Norwich by offering parents child care before and after school and during holiday times, working with private and voluntary providers if they want to do so.

Today, Harris Academies has committed that every new Harris primary academy that opens will offer a wraparound care service from 8am to 6pm as a minimum for the children that attend. The Free School Norwich offers child care for parents before and after school and for 51 weeks a year, all on a self-funding basis.

The Government want to make it easier for nurseries and childminders to expand by extending the planning relaxations recently introduced for state-funded schools to nurseries, such as using vacant office space.

All good and outstanding childminders and nurseries will automatically be eligible to receive Government early education funding from September. At the moment local authorities act as gatekeepers to this funding. This change will mean that over 80% of nurseries and over 70% of childminders would be able to receive this funding. Less than 10% of childminders currently offer funded places. This reform will help create a fairer market for childminders, which alongside the introduction of childminder agencies should see increased choice for parents who want high-quality home-based care.

This change will free up local authorities to work in concert with Ofsted to improve weaker providers and attract new strong providers to their areas.

We will also seek to address historic unfairnesses in funding by looking to introduce a national funding formula for early education in time.

In addition, we are proposing to streamline regulations, so that:

schools have flexibility to provide child care beyond term times and beyond the school day, making it easier for schools to offer provision from 8am to 6pm for three and four-year-olds and primary school children, in addition to enabling school nurseries to accept two-year-olds;

we will remove the unnecessary after-school learning requirements for children of reception age, who are already being taught during the school day;

there will be a single set of safety requirements for all children, with separate learning requirements for those not at school, in place of the three separate sets of requirements that currently apply;

nurseries and childminders do not need to complete paperwork such as “learning journeys”, meaning more time with children; and

we will support parents to make common-sense arrangements with their friends and neighbours by increasing the amount of time that a child can be looked after informally from two to three hours per day.

Copies of the report and consultation documents will be in Libraries of both Houses.