Teather announces greater flexibility on early education entitlement

Janaki Mahadevan
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Parents of three- and four-year-olds will be given more flexibility over how to use their free entitlement to early education under proposals announced by the children's minister.

Plans would see parents able to access the free hours for their children between 7am and 7pm. Image: NTI
Plans would see parents able to access the free hours for their children between 7am and 7pm. Image: NTI

The plans, which will be put out for consultation in the autumn, will mean parents can access the free hours for their children between 7am and 7pm and receive the full 15-hour entitlement over a minimum of two days as opposed to the current restriction of three.

In addition £30m will be made available for up to 30 local authorities to trial payment-by-results schemes in children’s centres. Children’s centres are also to be given a stronger focus on school readiness and there will be a new requirement for all local authorities to publish data on how much they are spending on children’s centres.

To give parents a greater say in the running of children’s centres, ministers are also proposing that mutuals and co-operative approaches be adopted for children’s centres.

Announcing the plans, Sarah Teather said: "We want a system where every child can thrive, regardless of their social background. If we are to tackle the attainment gap and raise life chances, we must start in the earliest years.

"Children’s centres are where much of this work takes place. That’s why we are looking at how to give parents more say in the running of their local children’s centre. This could be through governing bodies, or a co-operative approach where parents are involved in day-to-day decisions.

"We want to make sure parents get the help and support they need to bring up their children and balance work and family life. Proposed changes to the free entitlement hours will help make sure more children can benefit from early education and parents can juggle their working hours more effectively."

The government has also announced that it will accept the recommendations set out in Dame Clare Tickell’s review and slim down the Early Years Foundation Stage framework by reducing the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17. Acting on Tickell’s recommendations, the early years curriculum will focus on three areas: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development.

Ministers have also accepted that there needs to be more transparency for parents and have set out a requirement for all early years settings to inform parents of the results of a new check for all two-year-olds that aim to pick up on a child’s development or special educational needs.

Tickell said: "I am very pleased that the government has accepted the recommendations of my review in such a comprehensive way. As well as the agreement to slim down the bureaucracy, I know that the decision to support my recommendation for a check for all two-year-olds will make a real difference.

"We now have a golden opportunity to identify not only any potential developmental and special educational needs children have, but crucially to help parents who need additional support too."

The revised framework will come into force from September 2012.

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