The government has recently launched the Early Education and Childcare Consultation, which is seeking views on a range of proposals, including:
- Eligibility criteria for the new entitlement to free early education for disadvantaged 2 year olds, based on the income and benefits criteria which are also used to determine eligibility for free school meals
- A basket of clearly defined ‘quality measures’ which clarify eligibility criteria requirements providers need to meet to deliver free early education places
- Streamlined draft Statutory Guidance to Local Authorities on the delivery of free early education for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. Government wants to reduce national prescription and give LAs greater local discretion to enable more children to access their free entitlement. They propose reducing the guidance from over 100 pages to fewer than 20.
- A more flexible free entitlement which can be taken between 7am and 7pm instead of 8am and 6pm, and spread across a minimum of two days instead of the current three days.
- Improving the information parents receive from local authorities on sufficiency of childcare in their area, whilst also reducing the bureaucratic burdens on LAs. The consultation proposes an annual report to parents to replace the overly bureaucratic childcare sufficiency assessment that local authorities must currently do every three years.
The consultation will run until 31st January and is primarily aimed at local authorities and providers of free early education or childcare. The Department for Education would however welcome views from others too, particularly from parents and carers, who may wish to answer individual questions or all questions. Your views are central to Government’s understanding of how to act next.