The childcare sector will be experiencing a period of change over the coming months with the introduction of the 30 hours free childcare pilot as well as a review of GCSE requirements for practitioners, and it has now been announced that there will be a new Childcare Minister to oversee this transition; Caroline Dinenage.
Teresa May initially appointed Ms Dinenage as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Family Justice at the Ministry of Justice and has now expanded her role to also include childcare and early years. As well as childcare, she will also be responsible for women’s equality in the workplace, addressing bullying in schools, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender policy.
Ms Dinenage’s first priority in her role as Childcare Minister will be to manage the implementation of the 30 hours free childcare project, beginning with the pilot due to start in September. The success of this will depend on Ms Dinenage securing the right funding package for nurseries to be able to sustainably offer quality childcare while also providing free childcare for working families.
Tops Portsmouth and Tops Lakeside will be taking part in the pilot scheme starting in September, ahead of the proposed roll-out in September 2017. Ms Dinenage will also be responsible for the new funding system; details for which are due to be announced imminently and implemented from April next year.
Another focus for Ms Dinenage will be the review of the GCSE requirements for childcare professionals. Currently, Level 2 practitioners cannot proceed to their Level 3 qualifications if they do not hold a minimum C grade in Maths and English. This is leading to a shortage of Level 3 professionals in the sector, another barrier to the continuation of top quality childcare.
Adequate funding for “free” childcare places has been a priority for us here at Tops Day Nurseries for many years, brought to the forefront this April when the 15 free hours funding rates for 3 and 4 year olds were announced by local authorities and, in some cases, were reduced. This means that while parents are receiving 15 hours free childcare, the nursery provider is making a loss as the funding being received isn’t meeting required levels to cover costs of each “free” place. You can find out more details about our campaign, and sign our online petition here.
We are very keen to see how Ms Dinenage progresses in the role and would welcome the opportunity to work with our colleagues in the sector to assist with the development and implementation of these programmes which will shape the future of childcare.