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Around 5,000 three and four year olds will get access to 30 free hours of childcare a year before the new childcare policy is rolled out nationally, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced today.
Cameron said the doubling of free childcare for parents who work over 16 hours a week and earn the national minimum wage or more and under £100,000 will be piloted in certain areas next year before it is extended nationally in 2017.
He said parents would save on average £5,000 per child as a result of the new policy.
The Prime Minister also announced the launch of a consultation giving childcare providers the right to request the use of school facilities when schools are not using them to cover before and after school care and holiday childcare.
He said this would open up good quality, affordable childcare for parents. The consultation seeks views from schools and childcare providers on how they can work together to make this work.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, warned, however, that there were still “many serious issues that need to be addressed” prior to the roll-out of the 30 hour free entitlement offer.
He said: “The increased early years funding recently announced by government, while welcome, is based on an unrealistic childcare business model that relies on providers operating with looser ratios and less staff continuity, both of which would have a detrimental impact on the quality of care delivered.”
He added: “The government’s ongoing focus on encouraging more parents back to work over and above supporting children’s early learning and development has meant that little effort has been made to understand what it really means to deliver high-quality early education and care – and crucially, what this quality costs.
With 5,000 children set to gain access to the scheme next year, it is vital that lack of understanding is addressed as soon as possible, and that early years providers are adequately supported to deliver the extended offer in a way that ensures that no child experiences a drop in the quality of care they receive.”