Sarah Teather confirms multi-million pound contract to support two-year-old nursery places

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The management, engineering and development consultancy Mott MacDonald has been awarded the 4m contract to support the Government's rollout of childcare places for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

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A number of membership organisations from the early years sector put in their own bids for the contract but have not been chosen to run the support for the programme, which involves providing training and advice on how providers can expand their businesses to offer the free places.

Speaking at the National Day Nurseries Conference in Birmingham on Thursday (21 June), Sarah Teather, minister for children and families, said, ‘We are transforming free early education so that thousands more two-year-olds can benefit. This will allow them to have the best possible start in life.

‘I am delighted we are appointing Mott MacDonald to offer support to all local authorities to ensure there is enough capacity to deliver the entitlement and to help improve the quality of nursery care to meet the needs of two-year-olds.

‘This is vital work which will help young children learn and prepare for school.’

Andrew Guest, contract manager at Mott MacDonald, said, ‘Mott MacDonald and Hempsall’s are looking forward to working alongside the department, local authorities and providers supporting the implementation of this important programme to increase access to early education for less advantaged two year old children.’

Mott MacDonald is a global consultancy with more than 14,000 staff employed in 50 offices worldwide.

One of its companies is Cambridge Education, which provides support services for schools, although the two-year-old contract will be managed directly by the parent company. Childcare training company Hempsell Consultancies, run by James Hempsall, is the lead sub-contractor delivering the project.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘We are pleased that the Government has acknowledged that local authorities and childcare providers need support if they are to deliver sufficient provision for disadvantaged two-year-old children.

‘However, we are increasingly concerned about the growth in recent years of public service commissioning, which is seeing the outsourcing of services to organisations that may have little or no prior knowledge of the sector they have successfully bid for.

‘We also recognise that it may have been more prudent for the Government to have given the £4m direct to providers to help support them to develop their infrastructure so that they are able to take the two year olds when the free early years entitlement is expanded.'

The Alliance was part of a consortium with the NDNA, Pen Green, the Daycare Trust and JWL Advisory Services, led by the former head of Education Consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Other bidders are believed to have included Serco and 4Children.

June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, which runs community nurseries, workplace and children’s centre nurseries, said, ‘Anything that will give some level of coherence to the two-year-old offer is to be welcomed, and hopefully, this support will shift up a gear the quality of provision for this age group.’

Earlier this month the Government announced that 2,000 more two-year-olds will be eligible for a free early education place from September, a year earlier than originally planned.

Around 150,000 children, 20 per cent of two-year-olds, will be entitled to a free place for 15 hours a week in the first phase of the scheme from September 2013. From September 2014, 260,000, 40 per cent of two-year-olds, will become eligible.

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