The Labour Party has made a number of commitments around early years and childcare in its general election manifesto as part of its vow to create a 'cradle-to-grave' National Education Service.
Although it criticises the current free entitlement for being 'chronically under-funded', 'patchy', and 'hard to navigate', Labour is promising to extend the 30-hour offer to all two-year-olds if it is elected, as well as look at increasing support for one-year-olds.
Labour's five childcare and early years-related manifesto pledges are:
- Directly subsidise high quality childcare settings rather than giving childcare subsidies directly to parents
- Maintain current commitments on free hours and make significant capital investment to ensure that the places exist to meet demand
- Phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern
- Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities
- Extend the 30-hour offer to all two-year-olds, move towards making some free childcare available for one-year-olds, and extend maternity pay to 12 months.
Commenting on the proposals, PACEY Chief Executive Liz Bayram said:
“The Labour Party’s proposals for early years – set out today in their manifesto commitment to a National Education Service – are ambitious and could deliver a seismic change in how children’s early development is supported and families are helped to balance work and caring responsibilities. But they do come with a health warning.
“Early years providers are already struggling to respond to the extension of funded places to 30 hours for less than half of three and four-year-olds. Further extensions of support to all two year olds, the delivery of a graduate led workforce and other ambitious commitments will only succeed in delivering high quality early education IF they are properly funded AND developed in partnership with the sector. We cannot continue to deliver uncosted proposals on a shoe-string. PACEY welcomes the commitments in principle, but we will need to better understand how this ambitious plan will be implemented and funded."