Skip to main content

Free Childcare

Volume 618: debated on Monday 19 December 2016

1. What progress her Department is making on the provision of 30 hours of free childcare to working parents. (907938)

We are committed to ensuring that we have the high-quality, affordable childcare that families need, and are on track to deliver 30 hours of childcare to working parents. We are investing record funding of £1 billion per year by 2020 and have announced a fairer early-years funding system. Eight early implementer areas are already providing nearly 4,000 places one year early.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Last week I visited Hadfield Nursery School in my constituency. That excellent and very well respected local nursery is a maintained nursery. It is concerned about the level of funding it will receive when the 30 hours provision comes in. Will she give us some reassurance on that, and would she like to visit Hadfield Nursery School, because it does a great job and everyone there would be delighted to see her?

I thank my hon. Friend for that very kind invitation. I would be more than happy to visit both him and the Hadfield Nursery School in his beautiful High Peak constituency. He is right to highlight the importance of maintained nursery schools. We have committed to providing local authorities with an additional £55 million per year for nursery schools until at least the end of this Parliament.

On the same subject, is it not really the case that the 30 hour promise is being funded by stealing resources from state-run nurseries that employ fully qualified headteachers and staff? Will the Secretary of State tell us what analysis she has undertaken of the damage that will be done by the cuts she is making to the funding of state-run nursery schools?

That is a rather churlish comment, if you do not mind my saying so, Mr Speaker. We are investing more money in this policy than any Government have ever spent on it before, some £6 billion. The hon. Gentleman needs to be a little more appreciative.

I assure the Minister that working parents in my constituency very much welcome 30 hours of free childcare for their children. Will she set out for them, and in particular for those with disabled children, how she will make sure there will be sufficient funding to give disabled children the best start in life through that 30 hours scheme?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was at Sheringham Nursery School in Newham last week, which is an early implementer and is already seeing the massive difference the scheme is making to working families. There is an inclusion fund that will go to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

I hope the Minister agrees that the early-years pupil premium provides vital support to some of our most disadvantaged children. Like the hon. Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham), we know that nurseries are facing financial pressure now, and many worry that they will not be able to care for the most vulnerable children when the 30 hours scheme is introduced. Will she therefore guarantee that all of the £50 million early-years pupil premium money will go to our most vulnerable children, and that that vital resource will not be cut this Parliament?

Yes. The pupil premium, which we introduced, will continue and will continue to go to the most vulnerable children.