Minister urges local authorities to boost affordable childcare

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Elizabeth Truss has written to councils in England to encourage them to talk to existing childcare providers, including schools, about how they could provide more affordable and flexible childcare.

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Elizabeth Truss wants local authorities to find ways to offer more affordable childcare for families

The minister lists a number of ways local authorities can do this, by suggesting, for example, that school nurseries open longer from 8am to 6pm and offer the 15 hours more flexibly.

The Government is also changing the law so that school nurseries can take two-year-olds without registering separately.

In the letter Ms Truss says that the Department for Education can provide models of how school nurseries can do this to ‘generate income for the school and provide parents with more affordable childcare.’

The minister also asks local authorities how they are supporting childminders, whether there are plans to introduce childminder agencies in their area, and whether resources are being used in the best way for residents.

The education and childcare minister writes, ‘I know that you will share my desire for a local offer that makes best use of the available resources and builds on good practice already established. I encourage you, therefore, to challenge your local schools and other childcare providers about what they provide and how it could be extended.’

Ms Truss also asks councils to look at how their children’s centres can offer families support.

‘Research shows that councils have placed a high priority on keeping children’s centres open, and I encourage you to consult further with your local networks about how children’s centres can be used both to deliver statutory services, and their aspirations for the local community, she says. ‘Some local authorities, such as Hampshire, Liverpool and Surrey have reconfigured their children’s centres to retain accessibility while improving efficiency.’

The minister says that she will be talking with councils in the coming months and also urges local authorities to get in touch with her to share ideas from their local area.

The DfE will also shortly be updating the early years benchmarking tool to enable councils to assess how they are doing against similar local authority areas.