Childcare was prominently featured in Jeremy Corbyn’s party conference speech today, with a raft of new policies announced concerning the extension of childcare entitlements for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds and the childcare and early years workforce. Nursery World reported that Labour’s key proposals are to:
- Extend current commitments on 'free' hours to all three- and four-year-olds, not just those whose parents are in work
- Extend 15 hours to all two-year-olds
- Extend two-year-old entitlement to 30 hours by the end of the Parliament
- Phase in subsidised provision on top of these entitlements, ranging between costing nothing for families whose incomes are under £16,200 and £4 per hour for families with incomes over £66,000
- Put an extra £4.8bn into early years provision to ensure that offering these hours is affordable for providers
- Increase funding for providers to £7.35 per hour of contact time by the end of the roll out
- Transition to a fully-qualified, graduate-led workforce as part of a two-term strategy
- Gradually require all staff to be qualified to Level 3 or working towards a level 3 qualification, including offering routes for those already working in the sector to attain these qualifications on the job
- Increase the proportion of staff with qualifications Level 4 and above from 20 per cent to 45 per cent
- Increase the graduate workforce three-fold, so graduate staff can spend 80 per cent of their time in contact with children and 20 per cent supervising other staff
- Require one SENCO per 100 children
- Increase the ratio of staff to children by recruiting almost 150,000 extra staff over seven years
- Establish a national pay scale for all early years staff
- Create a national online childcare portal, under which the full cost of funded childcare, subsidised hourly rates paid by parents and the subsidy itself, would be paid directly by Government to providers.
Commenting on Labour’s childcare proposals, PACEY Chief Executive Liz Bayram said:
“PACEY welcomes the Labour Party’s commitment to childcare and early years, and recognition of the central role it has on children’s life chances. This includes making 15 hours a universal offer to all two-year-olds, and ensuring 30 hours reaches the families that need the most support. However, it is absolutely vital that all childcare entitlements, both new and existing, are properly funded, or the entire sustainability of the childcare and early years sector – and the quality of provision – will be placed further at risk. It is encouraging that Jeremy Corbyn has recognised that the current system is underfunded and ‘free in name only’. We invite the Labour Party to work collaboratively and constructively with the sector to ensure there is a workable and sustainable delivery plan for their proposals.
“We especially welcome the commitments concerning the early years workforce, which has been undervalued and underpaid for far too long. We know from research around the globe that a graduate workforce is key to ensuring high quality outcomes for children, and for providing opportunities for all practitioners to develop their skills and progress their careers. It is also good news to see proposals to increase the number of level 3 and level 4-qualified staff.
“However, in order for Labour’s proposals to be successful, low funding for the childcare entitlements and low pay will need to be addressed immediately or the childcare infrastructure in England will struggle to cope, and the plan to recruit 150,000 more practitioners will not be realised.”