The petition of residents of the constituency of Coventry South
Declares that the Coventry University Nursery provides an irreplaceable service for the community; further declares that its location in the centre of Coventry is particularly important to maintaining adequate early years provision in this city; notes that the proposed closure of the Coventry University Nursery will result in the loss of much needed childcare provision; further notes that Coventry University has the facilities, financial and human resources to maintain the current level of provision; and further declares that the proposed closure of the nursery will have a detrimental impact on equal and widening participation in higher education and the ability of the petitioners to access work and education.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge Coventry University to consider withdrawing the proposed closure of its nursery and to instead expand its early years provision to fulfil its social responsibility to Coventry and its commitment to the wellbeing of its employees and students.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Zarah Sultana, Official Report, 12 June 2023; Vol. 734, c. 129.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho):
I am sorry to hear about the potential closure of the nursery at Coventry University. Officials in the Department for Education have spoken with Coventry City Council about this issue and the local authority has informed us that they are working closely with both the university and childcare setting to try and find a solution.
Under section 6 of the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the provision of childcare is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents in their area. Part B of the early education and childcare statutory guidance for local authorities highlights that local authorities should report annually to elected council members on how they are meeting their duty to secure sufficient childcare, and to make this report available and accessible to parents.
This Government are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why the spring Budget announced significant new investments to expand the free early education entitlements from 2024-25, together with uplifts in 2023-24 and 2024-25 for the existing entitlement offers. This represents the single biggest investment in childcare in England ever.
We will also substantially uplift the hourly rate paid to local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers, to deliver existing free entitlements offers. We will provide £204 million of additional funding in 2023-24, increasing to £288 million by 2024-25.
The petition raises concerns about equality and widening participation in higher education. Access to, and participation in, higher education is important and the government wants to ensure that equality of opportunity is in place at all establishments.
The childcare grant (CCG) for parents in higher education undertaking a full-time undergraduate course is paid to help with weekly childcare costs. The amount of CCG payable is based on 85% of actual childcare costs up to a maximum of £183.75 a week for one child or £315.03 a week for students with two or more children in the current academic year, 2022/23. The maximum CCG has been increased to £188.90 a week for one child and £323.95 for two or more children in 2023/24.
Students are also eligible for universal 15 hours childcare, which is available to all 3 and 4-year-olds, regardless of family circumstances.
Where students can work alongside their studies and meet the minimum income threshold for 30 hours, which is 16 hours a week at the national living wage, they are able to apply for, and receive, 30 hours and tax-free childcare which can help parents with an additional 20% contribution towards childcare costs. Tax-free childcare can be worth up to £2,000 per year for children from 0-11, or up to £4,000 per year for disabled children aged up to 17 and has the same minimum income threshold as 30 hours free childcare.