The Conservative Party manifesto makes a number of new childcare and early years-related commitments, notably a pledge to create thousands of new nursery places in primary schools. It also reiterates that three- and four-year-olds of working parents will receive 30 hours of 'free' childcare from September.
The five commitments are:
- Strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years
- Immediately institute a capital fund to help primary schools develop nurseries where they currently do not have the facilities to provide one
- Introduce a presumption that all new primary schools should include a nursery
- Continue to support maintained nurseries and allow them to become academies
- Assess what more is needed, including looking at the best ways that childcare is provided elsewhere in Europe and the world.
Commenting on the proposals, Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said:
“The Conservatives are promising to create thousands of additional nursery places in primary schools, but this doesn’t recognise that the vast majority of places are currently delivered by private and voluntary-sector providers, including childminders. Whilst the creation of more childcare places has to be welcomed, the childcare market is complex. These proposals will have to recognise the diversity of existing provision to ensure working parents aren’t faced with less choice and flexibility. Schools can only ever be part of the solution, given most only deliver provision over 38 weeks of the year.
"The manifesto also reiterates the Government’s plans to introduce 30 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds of working parents from September, but doesn’t recognise the current challenge of delivering this previous manifesto promise. In many areas of the country, funding levels are too low to cover the cost of delivery. PACEY is keen to work with whomever forms the next government to ensure this issue is addressed and a long-term, sustainable funding strategy is put in place. If not, many current childcare providers will be forced to choose between providing a place at a loss or losing business altogether. Neither option ensures that children and families have access to the high quality, sustainable childcare which will enable them to flourish."