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Government to extend availability of free entitlement following consultation

The government has concluded its consultation into the 30-hours scheme and, having considered the responses, has said it will extend the hours over which the funded hours can be delivered, to between 6am and 8pm (increased from between 7am and 7pm).
Further action points include limiting the number of sites on which children can take up their free entitlement in a single day, to two, to avoid a potentially negative impact on children.
It also said that it will make clear in statutory guidance that while free early years entitlements must be provided over no fewer than 38 weeks, local authorities are expected to work with providers to enable parents to ‘stretch’ their free childcare over a full year should they so wish.
Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Alliance, said that he welcomed the steps taken by government to address some of the challenges facing the sector, but remained concerned by the proposal to extend the hours over which the free entitlement can be delivered.
“While we recognise that flexibility of provision is important for parents, especially those working atypical hours, little regard seems to have been made to the potential impact of an earlier start, or later finish, on a child’s wellbeing and development,” Neil said.
“What’s more, given the additional costs associated with opening for longer hours, without sufficient funding, we would question how likely providers are to use this flexibility in practice.”
Neil said that ultimately, proper government funding is key.
“Unless the government takes action on the issue of underfunding, improving the flexibility of early years provision is going to be an uphill struggle,” he said.
“As such, we look forward to the publication of the government response to the early years funding consultation, and hope that the DfE has taken the sector’s concerns in this area seriously.”