Pilots announced for free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

childminders looking after kids


Parents in eight areas of England will be the first to benefit from the 30 hours of free childcare for three and four years olds from September.

The Government has announced that pilots for its plans to double the number of free childcare hours fo this age group will begin in Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, York, Newham and Hertfordshire.

The extra free childcare is available to families where both parents are working and to single parent families. Each parent must earn at least the equivalent of over 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage and under £100,000 a year.

The pilot areas will get an extra £13 million to expand free childcare.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier preventing parents and particularly mothers from working. That’s why I’m delighted that in just a few months’ time, we will see the first families benefiting from the Government’s offer of 30 hours’ free childcare for working parents.

“We have made a commitment to help working people, and through this extended offer we will help thousands more parents who want to return to work to do so.”

An additional 25 areas have been identified as “early innovators” and will look at ways to help support parents of children with special needs access the extended childcare when it is rolled out nationally next year.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “Given how little research has been done into the potential impact of the 30-hours offer to date, it’s important that these pilots are used effectively to gain a better understanding of how the scheme is likely to work in practice. This means making an honest assessment of any challenges around, for example, funding, capacity and impact on quality, and taking the necessary steps to address them – including further investment into the scheme.

“According to DfE data, parents of three- and four-year-olds currently use around 18 hours of childcare a week on average and so clearly a move from 15 government-funded hours a week to 30 is going to have a significant impact on providers, both on their ability to provide sufficient places and their ability to remain financially viable. It is vital that the government recognises this and works in partnership with the sector to ensure that the scheme is, in fact, deliverable in the long term.”

*For more information on help with childcare costs, click here.

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