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Councils in London are being encouraged to increase the number of nursery places after it was announced the Government is investing £8m in improving current childcare provision.
Boris Johnson and Minister for Education and Childcare Elizabeth Truss launched the fund and said improvements will provide greater flexibility and choice for working parents throughout London.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “High quality childcare is vital to our economy and this fund will be a boost for hardworking families in the capital. We want London parents to have access to affordable, flexible provision and this fund will also help ensure disadvantaged children get the best start in life.”
Education and Childcare Minister, Elizabeth Truss, said: “We want to see more school nurseries open from 8-6, giving working parents greater flexibility and choice. We also want good private sector providers to expand, with councils offering match funded capital so they can take advantage of new planning freedoms.
“School nurseries already provide almost 50 per cent of the three and four year old places for London children but often sit empty for parts of the day when they could help. This new approach will help more schools, nurseries and childminders offer places at the times we know parents need them.”
Expanding School Nurseries
The Government wants more school nurseries to expand the care they offer to provide more places and at flexible times to suit the needs of working parents in London.
It is hoped the investment will enable local authorities to provide funding for more school nurseries to offer wrap around childcare from 8am to 6pm and move away from the shorter period of care which currently is mainly offered between 9am to 3pm.
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children has praised the Government’s commitment to providing flexible care which takes the needs of parents into account.
Ms Longfield said: “High quality, affordable childcare is a crucial part of life for many families in modern Britain and is essential in helping parents to work and care for their children – particularly in London. Although this announcement comes nowhere near the revolution we need to increase childcare places and reduce the cost for parents, it is welcome, as it begins to recognise that flexibility is one of the main things parents are looking for.
“All providers – whether private or voluntary sector – will have a vital role to play in working in partnerships with schools. This model is being explored by many schools across the capital, such as the Parbold Douglas Church of England Academy. This type of partnership working is a welcome step towards making Britain Great for children and families.”
Kathy Tracey, Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services and Councillor for Wandsworth Common said: “I am really encouraged by today’s announcement. Wandsworth Council is keen to use this funding to encourage more schools to offer places for our youngest children. We want to take a more creative approach to how we deliver early education places in our area so we can deliver services that parents need at the times and in the places they want them.”
Extra funding should help more parents access 15 hours of free childcare at a time that is most beneficial to them, in nurseries which are able to offer more places at an affordable price and are local for families.
Part of the £8m funding will be used to expand care provision for two, three and four year-olds and increase places available for disadvantaged two year-olds.
Free childcare for two-year-olds
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) chief executive Purnima Tanuku welcomed the announcement of the fund, but warned funding should be used wisely to create places for London’s two-year-olds that are completely sustainable.
Ms Tanuku said: “Free early education for two-year-olds is a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of disadvantaged two-year-olds.
“London has more than 2,500 nurseries and they have a role to play in making sure London’s disadvantaged two-year-olds have opportunities to access good quality early learning.
“Two-year-old places will be in high demand in London which has a fast growing population and large pockets of disadvantaged areas.
“NDNA has been campaigning for the funding system to be overhauled and in our submission to the London Assembly Economic Committee Review of Childcare we raised the issue of nurseries providing free hours effectively subsidising the system as they are not paid enough by the local authority to cover the actual cost of the place.”
Of the two-year-olds eligible for Government funded childcare from September 2014, a fifth are expected to live in London.
Ms Tanuku continued: “In our latest member survey we found 56 per cent of those nurseries offering two-year places in the South of England, including London, were losing on average, £1.74 per child per place.
“This is despite strong government signals to local authorities to maximise their funding to early years providers and is leading to a worrying trend emerging of stagnating and even decreasing funding levels.”