Agenda item

Early Years Expansion and Early Education and Childcare Strategy


Aileen Chambers / Pam Ward to report.


Recommendation: To receive the report and note the contents.



Consideration was given to the report presented by Aileen Chambers, Head of Early Years and Childcare, which provided an overview of the range of developments currently taking place within early years including the DfE Early Years Expansion, the DfE Wraparound Childcare Programme, the development of a Rotherham Early Years Education and Childcare Strategy, the funding availability and the actions needed locally to meet requirements.


In the Spring Budget 2023 the Chancellor announced an expansion to the current early years entitlements with thirty hours childcare for every child over the age of nine months with working parents by September 2025.


The Government were focused on giving children the best start in life and supporting parents to access affordable, high quality childcare and this expansion of funded childcare was the largest ever and would remove barriers to work for nearly half a million parents with a child under three years in England. To enable childcare providers to prepare to deliver such a major expansion, it would be rolled out in phases to ensure there were enough places and staff ready to meet increased demand and the funding paid to childcare providers to deliver these offers would be increased. The expansion delivery would be over several phases are:


Childcare Sufficiency analysis in Rotherham indicated that most areas would have sufficient capacity to meet the projected demand in April 2024.  There would be a shortfall in some areas if the take-up levels were higher.


Depending on the take-up levels for children under one year old, additional places could be required across 70% of the brough based on the current market.   The DfE have announced a £100 million allocation for local areas to use to make sure childcare settings in their areas have enough physical space, anticipated to add thousands of new places across the country.??Confirmation on allocation amounts to local authorities and accompanying guidance were awaited.


Increased capacity would be required within the Early Years Team to manage the increased parental enquiries, distribution of funding to childcare providers and support for the sector to increase capacity and maintain high quality of delivery.   On this basis Local Authorities were able to retain a percentage of the Early Years DSG to cover central delivery.  It was anticipated that the central retention would increase by approx. £380k in 2024-25.  This funding currently covered the majority of the Early Years and Childcare Service delivery. 


A review of the structure of the Early Years and Childcare Service was underway with proposals being developed to ensure there was sufficient capacity and skills within the Team to support the increased entitlement implementation.


In terms of Wraparound Childcare the Government was investing £289 million over two years to support the expansion of wraparound childcare for primary school-aged pupils and the ambition was for all parents of primary school children to be able to access childcare in their local area.


The wraparound programme aimed to remove barriers to setting up new provision or expanding current provision, including removing the financial risk of setting up new provision when demand was not yet guaranteed. Parents should expect to see an expansion in the availability of wraparound care from September 2024.  Funding details included Capacity Funding, Programme Fund and Capital Funding.


It was also noted that a Rotherham Early Years Education and Childcare Strategy was being developed and consultation with the sector had been undertaken to inform the strategy prior to approval by Cabinet in February 2024.


Forum Members welcomed the update and the detail contained for two, three and four year old children.  Whilst it was difficult to predict take-up of the provision it was acknowledged that funding would be passported through to providers as soon as was possible.  Current providers were also concerned about recruitment and retention of staff.


The DfE indicated that the Eearly Years Block allocations and early education rates for 2024/25 would be released by the end of November and that capital funding would be allocated for both the Early Years Entitlement expansion and the Wraparound Childcare Programme; details of which were still awaited.


Agreed:-  That the report be received and the contents noted.  

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