'Work with us on 30 hours'

Sam Gyimah, minister for education and childcare, argues that the early years sector needs to get behind the 30 hours free childcare policy

As a Government we have put helping families at the heart of our agenda. Nothing shows this better than our determination to support more families through childcare than ever before.
At the General Election we said we would do more to help working families with the cost of childcare. When we were voted into Government, to show how much of a priority it is to us, we put childcare into the Queen’s speech for the first time. Through the Childcare Bill, which has now passed through Parliament and is approaching Royal Assent, we are demonstrating that we will deliver on our commitment to parents, and from September next year working parents of three- and four-year-olds will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare a week, helping them back to work, or to work more hours if they choose to do so.
We knew we would need to engage with providers to make our offer work and we are delivering on our commitments to the early years sector. We were the only party who said they would raise the hourly funding rate paid to providers. And last summer, we had an extensive consultation with the sector which was central to the review we launched into the cost of delivering childcare. This was the most comprehensive analysis of this market ever, examining costs at the provider level and considering future cost pressures such as the national living wage. As a result, we will uplift the national average rates paid for the two- , three-, and four-year-old entitlements, to £4.88 for three- and four-year-olds, including the Early Years Pupil Premium, and £5.39 for two-year-olds.
Providers wanted to end the inherent unfairness of different funding rates based on historic calculations. So at the Spending Review the Chancellor announced that we will implement an early years national funding formula, to make sure providers in different parts of the country receive a fair rate and will be paid based on the needs of the children they look after, rather than where they happen to be located.
We were also told that too much of the funding we direct towards the childcare market didn’t reach the front line. So we are working with councils to improve contracts that haven’t always worked for providers and been clear that local authorities can’t topslice unfairly - meaning more money reaches the front-line and is more evenly distributed between different types of providers. That’s because funding should end up being spent on what it was intended for - looking after our young children.
Parents and providers alike let us know that it was vital to keep the quality of the workforce high. That’s why we are committed to raising the bar so that our children are in the best possible hands, looked after by the most talented staff. We continue to look at what more can be done to encourage talented staff to forge a career in the early years. We are also providing funding for bursaries for eligible trainees, and are also supporting employers to help with their staff training costs. And a key strand of our Workforce Strategy which will be developed in 2016 will be looking at progression routes in the sector; to see what more we can do to keep our experienced staff.
Because of the importance of this policy to families, we decided to bring the offer forward to this autumn in some areas, with early implementers meaning thousands of parents gaining 15 free hours of on top of the 15 hours every child already receives.  And there will also be early innovators in every region – who will look specifically at innovative ways of making sure childcare is accessible to as many parents as possible, testing out certain challenges that childcare providers or parents might face. This could be trying out different models to see what works for parents, looking at provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities, or looking for solutions to other issues that might impact the free offer.
So we are pressing ahead with the delivery of these measures, while listening to parents and the sector. By 2019-20 we will be spending over £1 billion more per year to fund our extended free childcare offer, as part of a £6 billion a year cross-Government package. At a time when we have had to make difficult decisions across Whitehall, we are spending more on childcare than any other Government in our history because we have chosen to support parents. It is now time to acknowledge the huge investment we are making in the sector and the significant uplift to the funding rate that providers will get paid. We need the sector to work with us, rather than taking opportunities to manufacture outcry.
The childcare market is healthy and thriving. There are 230,000 more places than 2009 and more parents than ever before are accessing high quality free childcare. And we’re bringing in reforms so that providers can deliver more free childcare to 390,000 working families, as well as making the sector more sustainable, fair to the taxpayer and deliver for parents. Our investment will help the childcare market grow and will enable it to support parents across the country.

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