Pre-school Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to improve accessibility to early years services.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the impact of the covid-19 outbreak on the accessibility of early years services in the North West region.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the consistency of early years services for children up to five years old across the UK.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to promote and improve access to early years services.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

High quality, accessible childcare is important in ensuring that every child has the best possible start in life. As of 31 March 2021, 96% of providers on the Ofsted Early Years Register were judged Good or Outstanding, a substantial increase from 74% in 2012. Ofsted are responsible for monitoring the quality of provision.

The department continues to monitor the sufficiency of childcare through regular attendance data collection and monitoring the open or closed status of providers. We also discuss sufficiency of provision in regular conversations with local authorities. Local authorities are not currently reporting any significant sufficiency or supply issues and we have not seen a significant number of parents unable to secure a childcare place, either this term or since early years settings re-opened fully on 1 June 2020. The department provides support to local authorities with low take up of the entitlements.

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours free childcare each week, providing children with high-quality early education. Take-up of this entitlement is high, with 90% of 3 and 4 year olds registered for a 15 hours per week free early education place in January 2021. Eligible working parents of 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to an additional 15 hours to help them with the additional costs associated with childcare. Households on a low income of under £15,400 (or £16,190 if receiving child tax credits) can qualify for 15 hours free childcare for 2 year olds.

In addition to free early education entitlements, the government offers Tax-Free Childcare for children from 0 to 11 years old, or up to 16 if disabled. For every £8 parents pay into their Tax-Free Childcare account, the government will pay £2, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year. For disabled children, the maximum is £4,000 per year. In total, 308,000 families used Tax-Free Childcare for 364,000 children in June 2021.

Working parents on a low income may also be eligible for help with up to 85% of their childcare costs (for children under 16) through Universal Credit Childcare. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children, payable in arrears.

As part of the COVID-19 education recovery strategy we are investing £180 million for training for early years staff to support the very youngest children’s learning and development. This includes Nuffield Early Language Intervention, improving the language skills of reception age children who need it most during COVID-19. Two thirds of eligible primary schools have signed up and we estimate 90,000 reception age children will get extra support with their speech and language development. Further detail on the additional training will be made available in due course.

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