As you may know the Government plans to extend the existing entitlement to free early education and childcare for three- and four-year-olds to 30 hours per week (during term time or its equivalent over more weeks) for those from working families from September 2017, and in some areas and for some children from September 2016. This represents a significant increase in the amount of free hours provided to many children. Lots of detail is still to be worked out and the Government is currently legislating for the extended entitlement through the Childcare Bill, which is due to reach (spoiler – technical legislative language) Report Stage in the House of Lords on 14 October. There has already been a lot of interest in the new entitlement. As you would expect a lot of the fine detail is still to be finalised and we’ll update you through future blogs. In the meantime if you’d like to keep track of the Childcare Bill you can do so online at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/childcare.html
Whilst introduction of “30 hours” is still some time off we all still have a role to play in ensuring that children access the current entitlements. 96% of all three- and four-year-olds access a free place – a truly staggering figure but only around 56% of those entitled at age two do. Across England the take up of eligible two-year-olds differ enormously which means children in some areas are far more likely to miss out than others. That is important because of what we know about the benefits of early education https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/improving-school-readiness-creating-a-better-start-for-london to our most disadvantaged children. Professionals working with families and young children have an important role in helping parents and children access what they are entitled to. More information about the entitlements to free early education can be found at: www.gov.uk/freechildcare or from your local council.
Julian Ward, Department for Education