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Early Years Education

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 1 December 2016

The Government have today published their response to the recent consultation on changes to the funding of the free early years entitlements for three and four-year-olds. The Government response can be found at:

This includes the introduction of an early years national funding formula. This will provide a fairer funding system for nurseries, preschools and childminders.

We are delivering our manifesto commitment to double the free hours of childcare provided for working parents of three and four-year-olds, from 15 to 30 hours a week. Many parents want to go back to work, or work more hours, but cannot afford to because of the cost of childcare. This policy will make childcare more affordable and support parents to return to work, or to work more hours, if that is what they wish to do.

We are backing this with an additional £1 billion every year by 2019-20 including £300 million per year to increase Government funding rates. We are committed to allocating this record level of investment fairly and transparently so that early years providers can deliver free childcare on a sustainable and high-quality basis.

That is why we consulted on proposals to introduce a new funding system that is fair, transparent and maximises funding to providers. Our proposals to improve the way we allocate funding have been positively received and today, I can confirm our final funding policy. Key features are:

a new early years national funding formula from April 2017 that will increase Government funding rates in 80% of local authorities;

a minimum funding rate of at least £4.30 per hour for every local authority;

a requirement for local authorities to pass 95% of their funding to providers;

additional funding, worth £55 million per year, to support maintained nursery schools until the end of this Parliament (2019-20);

a new disability access fund worth £615 per child per year to support disabled three and four-year-olds to access their early years entitlement; and

a requirement for all local authorities to have inclusion funds to channel additional support to children with special educational needs.

These changes will put early years providers in a stronger position to deliver the free entitlements on a sustainable basis. They will help to ensure that every child, whatever their background and individual needs, can access the high-quality early education they need to prepare for school and improve their life chances. And from September 2017, they will support the delivery of 30 hours of free childcare to nearly 400,000 eligible working parents, thus making it easier for them to get on and balance work with their family lives.

Education lies at the heart of this Government’s ambition to make this a country that works for everyone—and today we are reaffirming our commitment by announcing this new, fairer way of funding our early years. It will ensure the dedicated individuals caring for our children have the support they need to give every child the best start, especially when looking after those who are most in need.