Pre-school Education

Department for Education written question – answered at on 5 April 2023.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps she is taking to ensure the adequate provision of nursery places across England following changes to the number of children eligible for free nursery hours.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

In the Spring Budget announcement of 15 March 2023, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced transformative reforms to childcare for parents, children, and the economy. By 2027/28, the government expects to be spending in excess of £8 billion every year on free hours and early education, helping working families with their childcare costs. This represents the single biggest investment in childcare in England ever.

Our reforms include:

  • Providing over £4.1 billion by 2027/28 to fund 30 hours of free childcare for children over the age of nine months
  • Investing £204 million from September 2023, rising to £288 million in 2024/25 to uplift the rates for existing entitlements
  • Increasing the supply of wraparound care through £289 million start-up funding
  • Attracting more people to childminding through an up to £7.2 million start-up grant fund
  • Giving providers more flexibility by changing staff-to-child ratios to 1:5 for two-year-olds in England
  • Launching a consultation on further measures to support reform of the childcare market, to explore further flexibilities for providers.

The department is ensuring a phased implementation of the expansion to the 30 hours offer to allow the market to develop the necessary capacity.

We will also continue to monitor the sufficiency of childcare places. The key measure of sufficiency is whether the supply of available places is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents and children. Ofsted data shows that the number of places offered by providers on the Early Years Register has remained broadly stable at 1.3 million places since August 2015.

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. The department has regular contact with each local authority in England about their sufficiency of childcare and any issues they are facing.

We will continue to work closely with the sector on the implementation of these reforms and explore how we can support the sector to deliver the additional places that will be required. The department will set out further details in due course.

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