Children’s Minister Robert Goodwill met with members of the West Bedlington Early Years Partnership in Northumberland on Friday (November 17) to hear from them about their experience of delivering 30 hours free childcare.
The Minister visited Bedlington West End First School, one of the five providers who launched the Partnership, to meet with council, school and nursery staff involved in the government’s early delivery scheme which offered 30 hours to local families from September 2016.
The minister also confirmed that councils will be able to bid for additional funding to support projects that will directly benefit their delivery of 30 hours. The Delivery Support Fund, worth over £8.5 million, will help councils work with childcare providers to deliver 30 hours to all parents who want a place, as demand continues to increase into the summer term.
Children and Families Minister Robert Goodwill said: "I have heard excellent things about the delivery of 30 hours in Northumberland so I am delighted to have seen for myself how it’s working and to speak to providers involved with the West Bedlington Early Years Partnership.
“I commend the way Northumberland has worked closely with providers to address the unique challenges it faces from being a rural area. Parents who previously may not have felt able to go back to work or increase their hours, are now getting the benefits of 30 hours of free childcare.”
Northumberland is also taking the lead in sharing their learning from delivering 30 hours through the Department for Education’s ‘buddying’ scheme for councils. The scheme will partner high-performing councils, including more of the 12 early delivery areas, with those who are still in the early stages of delivering 30 hours.
Councillor Wayne Daley, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council, and cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “I know how important childcare is and this fantastic scheme allows us to make sure we give children the best start in life and support parents to work.
“This visit was a great opportunity for Minister Goodwill to see an example of how this scheme is implemented and discuss the benefits and challenges we have faced along the way.”
The Delivery Support Fund, which opened to council bids on Friday 17 November, will be available for a range of projects to help with delivery of the 30 hours scheme. These projects might include better business support for providers, developing effective networks locally like the West Bedlington Early Years Partnership, increased support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) taking up 30 hours, or enhanced IT systems to allow for automated payments to providers. The fund could also be used to hold events or workshops for councils to share best practice.
The West Bedlington Early Years Partnership was established with the support of the Early Years team at Northumberland County Council. It is made up of Bedlington West End First School, West End Preschool, Trinity Preschool, Trinity Out Of School Club and St Bedes RC Voluntary Aided Primary School.
The Minister’s visit ended with a tour of the First School’s site, which is currently being redeveloped to expand its 30 hour provision, thanks to a successful capital bid from the Department.
This build will rehouse West End Preschool and Trinity Out Of School Club, increasing the number of 30 hours places available. Staff spoke to the Minister about how the providers are working together to support accommodation needs, making sure parents can access the childcare they need while building work is underway.
The 30 hours offer, which launched nationally in September for working parents of three and four-year-olds in England, can save families around £5,000 per year on the cost of childcare, helping them to balance their jobs and family lives. Thousands of families are already taking up the offer this term, and those who are eligible for places from January 1 are being encouraged to apply now and by November 30 to secure a place in good time.
View the full article at Northumberland County Council
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