Free nursery education 'to be made more flexible'
Published: 30th May 2012 09:08:08
Rules governing the way free nursery school education in England is delivered are to be changed, making it easier for parents to take up places.
Under plans announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, parents will be able to spread their free nursery place over two days rather than three.
Mr Clegg will also announce 10 pilot areas where disadvantaged two-year-olds will get a free place from September.
Councils and nurseries say the plans require proper funding.
Currently, about 800,000 three- and four-year-olds in England take up 15 hours of free education a week.
Mr Clegg says that from September, the hours during which parents can drop their children with early years education providers for their free place will be extended by two hours.
At present, parents are restricted by having to drop their children off no earlier than 0800 and picking them up no later than 1800 - these hours will be extended to 0700-1900.
The funding allocated to early years provision must cover costs ”
Under the current rules, the free 15-hour nursery entitlement can only be used over a minimum of three days, meaning parents can only leave their children for five hours a day.
Mr Clegg says this is not flexible enough for parents who work part time, and that parents will be able to use the 15 hours over two days.
There will also be revised statutory guidance making it clear that parents do not have to pay to use their child's free early years place, following concerns that some free places were being made conditional on parents being able to make additional payments.
Plans to give 15 hours of free pre-school education a week to some 260,000 two-year-olds from poorer homes, first announced under Labour, will be extended nationwide from September 2013.
But Mr Clegg is announcing 10 pilot areas for this scheme from September 2012, benefiting 1,000 children in 10 neighbourhoods.
Under the scheme, the 20% most deprived children in those areas will be eligible.
The trial neighbourhoods are in Blackpool, Cornwall, Greenwich, Kent (Ashford), Lancashire (Preston), Lambeth, Newcastle, Northamptonshire (Wellingborough), Peterborough and Rotherham.
Mr Clegg said: "We're revolutionising the early start our children get in life - there will be more free childcare, it will be higher quality, and it will be more flexible for parents.
"By getting things right from the off, we're making sure our youngsters are ready to learn when they start school so that they get the most out of their education."
The Local Government Association (LGA) welcomed the announcement, but said the expansion of early years education must be met with proper capital funding.
David Simmonds, chairman of LGA's children and young people board, said: " It's achievable as it currently stands.
"But as it expands to all parents, there will be a need for building additional capacity."
The chief executive National Day Nurseries Association, Purnima Tanuku, said: "The funding allocated to early years provision must cover costs, otherwise it is not sustainable for many nurseries to participate in the free entitlement, without pushing up the price of paid-for care for other parents.
"It is vital that nursery costs are covered to ensure there are the 260,000 additional places for two-year-olds, which are needed by September 2014, can be created."
The shadow minister for children and families, Sharon Hodgson, said the government should develop a comprehensive plan for childcare.
"While children's centres are closing or having their budgets squeezed, ministers must be clear about how they are going to ensure that there are enough well-qualified staff and accommodation in order to provide good quality care for an extra 260,000 children.
"There are real concerns for families, as nurseries begin charging top-up fees, children's centres funding is slashed, and family tax credits are being cut."
The Daycare Trust welcomed the changes, saying increased flexibility over the number of days and hours benefited the whole family.
Chief executive Anand Shukla said: "Parents, particularly those working in part-time roles, will be able to use their hours at the time that works best for them."
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Free nursery education 'to be made more flexible' [Online] (Updated 30th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431782/Free-nursery-education-to-be-made-more-flexible [Accessed 28th Jul 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com