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Early Years Education

Volume 662: debated on Tuesday 2 July 2019

8. What recent representations he has received from the Secretary of State for Education on the level of Government funding for early years education. (911681)

I regularly meet the Secretary of State for Education to talk about education funding. This issue will be settled as part of the spending review.

I hope the Chief Secretary has learned from those conversations and will go out to talk to early years providers. The shortfall in funding is having a huge impact. I visited a nursery in my constituency recently and it is clear that it is the staff who are bearing the brunt of it. They are on only just above minimum wage. I cannot help thinking that if the people working there were not women perhaps their work would be valued more. Will she ensure that she makes representations, when the spending review comes, on lifting the freeze?

I point out to the hon. Lady that we are spending a record amount on childcare and early years support—£6 billion a year, which is £700 million more than in 2015—but of course we will look at representations as we go forward into the spending review and make sure we treat all parts of education fairly.

Will the Minister look particularly at funding for two-year-olds? Providers of early years education in my constituency tell me they lose money on providing that service for two-year-olds because there are significant additional costs in looking after two-year-olds but only a small uplift in the rate paid.

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We will look at that. It is important to acknowledge the progress this Government have made by introducing 30 hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds with working parents and 15 hours of childcare for children with parents on low incomes. Those are important steps. Of course, we will look in the spending review at the rates and ensure they are fair right across the country.

Children with higher educational needs are losing out even more. My local authority overspent by £760,000 last year and will overspend by £1.3 million this year and £1.9 million next year. Those children need this vital support in order to grow. Will the Minister look at the funding of the higher needs budget to ensure that local authorities can support those families?

The hon. Lady is certainly right that we have seen demand for special educational needs funding rise. We need to look at that as part of the spending review, from both a local government point of view and a Department for Education point of view.