Department for Education written question – answered at on 21 March 2024.

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Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps she is taking to help ensure the availability of high-quality childcare.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department is delivering the largest expansion of childcare in England’s history. Latest projections show that more than 150,000 children will benefit by early April. The department expects that number to grow in the coming months and years. The department continues to support the sector’s expansion with £400 million additional funding to uplift hourly rates next year and a guarantee that rates will increase in line with cost pressures for the 2025/26 and 2026/27 financial years.

By the financial year 2027/28, this government expects to be spending more than £8 billion every year on free hours and early education, helping families with pre-school children with their childcare costs. This represents the single biggest investment in childcare in England ever.

Alongside increasing funding rates, government is allocating £100 million in capital funding to local authorities in financial year 2023/24 to support the expansion of childcare places for eligible working parents and to increase the supply of wraparound care in primary schools. The funding is anticipated to deliver thousands of new places across the country.

The department is also taking steps to support the early years workforce. Following the consultation on changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, the department has introduced flexibilities that aim to make things easier for providers, as well as continuing to explore how to support the sector to deliver the additional places that will be required.

On 2 February 2024, the department launched ‘Do something Big, Work with small children’ a new national recruitment campaign to support the recruitment and retention of talented staff to support the expansion of the 30 hours offer. This campaign will raise the profile of the sector, support the recruitment of talented staff, and recognise the lifelong impact those working in early years and childcare have on children and their families. The department is also providing £1,000 to eligible joiners and returners to the workforce as part of a financial incentives pilot and are supporting childminders through a £7.2 million start-up grant scheme, open to all new childminders who registered on or after 15 March 2023.

The department is ensuring a phased implementation of the expansion to the 30 hours offer to allow the market to develop the necessary capacity. The department will continue to monitor the sufficiency of childcare places across the sector. The department’s Childcare and Early Years Provider Survey shows that both the number of places available and the workforce have increased since 2022.

Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the provision of childcare is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents in their area. Where local authorities report sufficiency challenges, the department and the local authority discuss what action they are taking to address those issues and where needed support the local authority with any specific requirements through our childcare sufficiency support contract.

The department continues to work closely with the sector on the implementation of these reforms as it delivers this substantial expansion.

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