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Sharing the lessons learned during free childcare pilot

David Street and Eve Sinclair, of Northumberland County Council's Early Learning Team.
David Street and Eve Sinclair, of Northumberland County Council's Early Learning Team.

Members of Northumberland County Council’s early years team will speak at a national conference next week run by Nursery World.

As one of eight councils – the early implementers – taking part in a 30-hour free childcare pilot scheme, the authority’s Eve Sinclair and David Street will report on their approach, funding and experiences so far.

The event,Business Summit: A Changing Landscape will take place in London on November 9 and will bring together an expert line-up of speakers from government, business and academia to address and anticipate the challenges and opportunities across the early years sector.

The pilot scheme was opened to eligible parents in Northumberland in September 2016. The original target of 415 places to be filled was achieved by July, with funding for a further 160 places being granted by Government – meaning a total of 575 families are now benefiting.

Key findings identified during the pilot include: Regular, transparent communication to parents and early years providers is essential; digital solutions are key to meeting tight timescales; business support is crucial to the delivery of the scheme; parental demand is the strongest incentive for market growth.

Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at the county council, said: “We are delighted to be part of this pilot scheme to offer extra hours of childcare to families in Northumberland. As lead officers, David and Eve have worked hard alongside the early years team to ensure the pilot is a success in Northumberland.

“I am proud that we are able to help shape the scheme before the national rollout in 2017 and will watch with interest to see how the initiative unfolds over the coming year.”