WORKING PARENTS in York will be among the first to benefit from the expansion of free childcare to 30 hours a week.
Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah visited the city today to announce £13m funding for eight areas, including York, to run a pilot from this September.
The Government ran a competition and eight council areas have been chosen for the pilot.
Mr Gymimah visted Haxby Road Primary Academy, in York, where he met with early years staff, parents and children who attend the school’s nursery.
Working parents in Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, Newham and Hertfordshire will also benefit from the early offer from this September.
And these council areas wil be supported by 25 others who will look at innovative ways of making sure childcare is accessible to as many parents as possible.
The extra areas in Yorkshire are Bradford, Sheffield, East Riding, Wakefield and North Yorkshire.
The extra childcare will then be rolled out nationally in 2017.
All three and four-year-olds are already entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, and this is also extended to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds
The Government said the extra hours of childcare will make it easier for these parents to work. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier preventing parents and particularly mothers from working. That’s why I’m delighted that in just a few months’ time, we will see the first families benefiting from the government’s offer of 30 hours’ free childcare for working parents.
“We have made a commitment to help working people, and through this extended offer we will help thousands more parents who want to return to work to do so.
“The government will also be looking at the issues that make it difficult for parents with particular challenges to access childcare, including special educational needs and disability.”
Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah said: “I know how important childcare is from my own personal experience, and I couldn’t be more determined to make sure we give children the best start in life, support parents to work, and as a result, allow our country to prosper. I’m pleased that we are investing in childcare, and I’m looking forward to seeing how working parents benefit from 30 hours’ free childcare, before we roll the offer out to the rest of the country.”
The decision to run the pilot from this September, ahead of the scheme being rolled out the following year, has been welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers.
The NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “We welcome this money. Piloting the expansion will allow the government to ensure the increase in free childcare to 30 hours a week is deliverable across the country. It will help us learn from creative good practice. Our members have consistently supported the government’s intention to extend the free childcare element to 30 hours a week. We know the benefits of providing structured, high quality early years provision and the impact this has on a child’s development.” However he said there were concerns about the capacity of the system to deliver the extra care. He added: “Back in September our members raised concerns around the funding needed to deliver this pledge, including the capital investment to provide extra places...We hope the government’s assessment of these pilots helps to address our anxieties.”