Within the 43-page draft manifesto, Labour outlines plans to introduce a National Education Service that is ‘cradle-to-grave’. To achieve this it would ‘overhaul' the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to what it says would be a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct Government subsidy.
It goes on to say that under the Conservatives, the free hours entitlement is ‘chronically’ under-funded, with provision patchy and hard to navigate. It claims that many providers are refusing to participate in the scheme meaning parents will not get the hours they are entitled to.
Labour would maintain current commitments on free hours, but to ensure there are enough places to meet demand, it would commit ‘significant’ capital investment during its first two years in Government.
The party also proposes phasing in subsidised provision on top of the free hours to ensure everyone has access to affordable childcare regardless of their working pattern, and extending the 30 free hours to all two-year-olds and some one-year-olds.
To make the move to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, it says it will increase the wages of staff working in the early years, who are among the worst-paid, and enhancing training opportunities.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We know that affordable childcare is a high priority for parents and so it’s unsurprising that Labour’s draft manifesto contains some big promises in this area.
‘Many of the proposals are likely to be welcomed by those families struggling with the cost of childcare, particular the extension of the 30-hour offer to two-year-olds. However, such proposals are likely to be incredibly costly, especially given the higher costs associated with delivering care for younger children.
‘Add to that the suggestion of introducing additional subsidised provision on top of free entitlement hours, and it’s clear that substantial investment into the sector would be needed to make these proposals work in reality. Crucially, this investment would need to ensure a substantial increase in provider funding rates, and not just the capital investment referred to in the draft document.
‘It is, of course, important to remember that this is a leaked, draft document and so the final manifesto may well look different. We hope that Labour – and all other political parties – engage fully with those working in the early years to ensure that any promises they make are in fact workable and deliverable in practice.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'While the Labour manifesto is a draft version, the sector will see pledges to offer more ‘free’ nursery hours to a wider age range of children.
'We have sent a strong message to all the political parties calling for well thought-out plans for early years, developed in consultation with the sector. Any pledges, current or future, including further expansion of funded places, need the right investment so that nurseries can be sustainable whilst delivering the high-quality childcare that children and families need.'
The draft manifesto, which has been leaked the week before Labour publishes its final manifesto, also includes further policies on education, along with health.
It follows the announcement yesterday by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that it will reverse the cuts to schools’ budgets and increase funding.
Labour says it would abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments and launch a commission into curriculum and assessments, starting by reviewing Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs.
It would put £150 million back into supporting children in schools by scrapping the Conservatives’ ‘nonsensical’ plans for schools to pay the Apprenticeship Levy.
The party also proposes delivery of a SEND strategy based on inclusivity, and embedding SEND more substantially into initial teacher training so staff, children and their parents are properly supported.
Labour’s plans include:
- Brining in a new Government ambition for Britain’s children to be the healthiest in the world, and to introduce a new Index of Child Health. This would be used to measure progress against international standards and report on annually against four key indicators –obesity, dental health, under 5s and mental health. This would be funded by a new £250m Children’s Health Fund;
- Increasing the number of health visitors and school nurses;
- Publishing a new childhood obesity strategy with proposals on advertising and food labelling;
- Addressing poor childhood oral health in England;
- Implementation of a strategy for the children of alcoholics based on recommendations drawn-up by independent experts.