'Hundreds more' providers required to deliver free childcare in Northumberland as pledged by government
and live on Freeview channel 276
Announced in the Chancellor’s spring budget earlier this year, the government is set to fund 30 hours a week of free nursery for children aged from nine months until they go to primary school.
However, there are fears the policy may struggle to have an impact amid chaos in the sector.
Data from the education watchdog Ofsted showed that, just in the past year, 3,320 of the 62,300 nurseries and childminders for under fives in England have closed their doors for good. This has meant there are already 17,800 fewer childcare places available nationwide.
Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee, the council’s director of education David Street outlined the scale of the problem in Northumberland.
He said: “We are probably looking at needing hundreds more early years providers than are currently employed in the sector.
“That will be a challenge to recruit the numbers that we need. We have a very accurate mapping process and we know where we need the people and provision we need to deliver on that.”
The government described the move as the “biggest investment by a UK government into childcare in history” with investment doubling from around £4bn to £8bn a year.
Working parents will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare from September 2025 over 38 weeks of the year.
The increased offer will be rolled out in stages to allow childcare providers time to be able to implement the changes, making sure the places that are needed are available across the country when it is introduced.
From April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare. From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended down to the age of nine months.
From September 2025, working parents of children aged nine months and upwards will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week. This will be the other side of a general election, which must be held in January of the same year at the latest.
The government said the extra time will give childminders and nurseries “time to prepare” for the “massive expansion.”