The Government has asked childcare providers in England to come forward to participate in trials for the expanded free entitlement offer from September 2016.
The plans to increase the free entitlement to childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30 by 2017 were announced shortly after the General Election. In June it was announced that trials in some areas would begin in September 2016.
Childcare providers and councils have been given until 28 September to express their interest in participating in the trials. It is not known how many providers will be selected or whether there is a target figure for the number of places to be offered through the trials.
Throughout the summer PACEY has been participating in the consultation on the funding review. Our formal response can be read here. Staff, trustees and members of PACEY have been involved in a series of roundtables organised by Department for Education over the summer. Together we have been expressing concern about the current level of free entitlement funding and other barriers that childminders and nurseries face in delivering the free hours.
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, said: “Providers need assurance that the underfunding of free early years entitlement will be addressed - and that there will be a regular review of the childcare costs, not just a one-off uplift. However, it is not just about funding - we continue to raise concern about the other barriers childminders and other providers face in delivering the free entitlement, including inflexible local authority payment procedures, red tape and, for many childminders, the ban on claiming free early years education for related children in their care.
Our view is that providers will need significant reassurance that their business sustainability will not be affected before participating in the trials. We advise our members to get in touch with their local authority to see how they are planning to respond to this call for early implementers. The review of funding rates is expected later in the autumn and at that point we will be able to assess how the sector can respond to the doubling of the early entitlement.”