Minister confirms workforce strategy for next year

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Childcare minister Sam Gyimah has confirmed that there will be a workforce strategy established next year.

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Sam Gyimah

The minister was speaking at a childcare policy event organised by the Family and Childcare Trust in London today (4 December).

During a question and answer session, Pamela Calder, from the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network, told the minister that there was now ‘much less support for graduates and no requirement to have graduates in services’ than there had been. She asked, ‘What is your support for workforce development continuing for having graduates in services?’

Mr Gyimah said, ‘We will be publishing a workforce strategy. I’m much more interested in routes into the sector, making sure that people stay in the sector, making sure that people can develop in the sector and making sure that we have the right skills in the right place.

‘So for example if you’re a shift worker looking for someone to look after your child at the weekend then you’re not looking for a graduate. However, if you’re looking at some of the educational aspects then you do want the best possible qualified people.

‘I think we’ve made great strides, because on the one hand [the sector is] saying we need graduates in the sector, in the other part of the sector [they say] requiring English and numeracy is too much. We want to raise the quality of the overall workforce and make sure that when people come into the industry they stay.’

30 hours

The minister also gave more details about how the 30-hour policy would work in practice for parents.

Asked whether a parent would lose their 30-hour entitlement if they lost their job, Mr Gyimah said, ‘We allow a grace period, roughly three months, so you don’t have to take your child out of nursery.’

He said HMRC would be ‘periodically checking’ parents’ eligibility and there would also be an appeals process.

Parents working on zero hours contracts could also be entitled to the 30 hours.

Mr Gyimah said that parents and providers had called for a simpler process during the consultation, and it therefore made sense that Tax-Free Childcare and the 30 hours matched up. A joint online application process is being developed by HMRC so that parents can apply for both at the same time.

Funding

Mr Gyimah also said that the Government wanted to make sure as much funding as possible gets to the frontline.

‘I understand the way local authority top-slicing work sand how that leads to different rates in different areas’, he said.

The Government will also look at local authority ‘top-slicing’ seriously.

He reiterated that there would be a consultation on an early years national funding formula early next year to ensure that funding was allocated in the fairest way possible.

‘It is not right that some local authorities receive almost twice as much as some others in the funding formula when the characteristics of the children are the same.

‘We’re also reducing bureaucracy by simplifying the conditions that LAs can place on providers. We will consider if we can support local authorities to draw up agreements with providers and whether when providers form a statutory relationship with one local authority they could use this to set up provision with another.’

There will also be 4,000 places through nursery provision as part of free schools, as well as looking at why some providers on the early years register do not offer the funded places, and whether changes could be made.

‘In some cases just the payment terms can put some providers off,’ he said.

Talking about social investment for childcare providers, Mr Gyimah also confirmed that the names of the winning applicants from the childcare investment fund, launched in March, would be announced shortly.

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