Childcare minister labels policy criticisms 'myths'

By Jess Brown

| 13 June 2016

Childcare minister Sam Gyimah has claimed many of the sector's concerns over the government's early years policies are unfounded.

Childcare minister Sam Gyimah dismissed concerns around childcare policies as "myths". Picture: Alex Deverill

Speaking at the Pre-school Learning Alliance's annual conference in London, Gyimah said "myths" had developed around a number of key reforms to childcare funding, policy and training. He went on to claim that the promises he made when he became minister in 2014 have been delivered.

"I said when I was first appointed childcare minister that I was going to listen to the sector," Gyimah said.

"There were a number of demands, but just three of them were an increased funding rate for the free entitlement, a simple, fair funding formula, and a workforce strategy for the sector.

"And yet, from what I read in the press, one would be forgiven for thinking we have not delivered, but we have and I continue to do so."

Gyimah said that it is a myth that investment by the government in the delivering of the Early Years Foundation Stage had "little effect" on children's attainment.

"We know that investment in the early years for our children has some of the biggest returns per pound spent," Gyimah said.

The government announced earlier this year there would be a consultation on a national funding formula for the money paid to local authorities that they pass on to early years settings. Gyimah said the time to devise a national funding formula was not the government ignoring the sector but "taking time to get this right".

Gyimah also refuted criticism of the expansion of the free childcare policy. He said he is confident there is capacity in the sector to deliver the extra hours and that funding for areas piloting the policy is sufficient.

"We had to make some adjustments to funding rates for some of our pilot areas," Gyimah said, referring to the increased rates offered to York settings after they threatened to quit the scheme last month.

"There are some local authorities that receive in excess of £8 per hour from central government, while others receive something like £3.50 an hour.

"So we know that to address this we've got to change the funding rates from central government to local authorities, and also reform the system that distributes money from local authorities to [nurseries] so that none of you is disadvantaged by the cost or type of setting you run, size of setting you have or type of business you have."

Also at the conference, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the alliance, warned the government's consultation for the funding rates for the 30 hours was significantly flawed.

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