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Current policy and Government initiatives

Legislation

Childcare Act 2006
The first ever Childcare Act was given royal assent on 11 July 2006. This establishes new quality standards for childcare through the Early Years Foundation Stage and gives local authorities legal duties to ensure sufficient childcare for working parents in their area.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning (ASCL) Act
The ASCL Act includes provisions to establish children's centres on a statutory footing and ensure that they are a consistent element of early years provision rather than just a series of initiatives.

Policy

The Government published its policy statement Supporting Families in the Foundation Years in July 2011. This describes the Government's vision for support for children and families from pregnancy to five years.

Since the new Government was formed in May 2010 it has made a number of important policy changes:

  • In September 2010 it went ahead with the planned extension of the free early education entitlement for three and four year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours per week.
  • In the spending review in October 2010 it announced that it would extend the number of free early education places for two year-olds from 20,000 to 140,000. This would cover around 20 per cent of two year-olds and provisions were made in the Education Act to make it a statutory entitlement from 2013.
  • Subsequently, the Government announced in November 2011 that it would further extend the scheme to cover 40 per cent of two year-olds.
  • The Government is reviewing the Early Years Foundation State. Following a review by Dame Clare Tickell, the Government published its proposals for a new EYFS in summer 2011. The final version of the new EYFS will be published in spring 2012. 

Previous strategies 

Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare, Building on the 10-Year Strategy (2009)

This document, published by Government in January 2009, gave an update on progress on the 10-Year Strategy for Childcare and sets out new steps that the Government would take to improve early years and childcare provision in the years ahead.

Key points included a pledge to extend free early education provision for three and four year olds from 12.5 hours per week over 32 weeks to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks, and a gradual extension of the number of free places for two year olds to all children.

It also committed that by 2015 all existing staff and new recruits to the sector will be supported to achieve a minimum of a full and relevant level three qualification, and there was an aim to have a graduate in every childcare setting by 2015, and 2 in the most disadvantaged areas.

Read the full document.

Ten-year strategy for childcare (2004)

The Government's Ten-Year Strategy for Childcare, ‘Choice for parents, the best start for children', was published in December 2004.

Key points included a pledge to create 3,500 children's centres by 2010, providing access for all families, a commitment to extend free early education places for three and four year olds to 15 hours a week by 2010 (with a goal of 20 hours per week) and affordable school-based childcare between 8.00am and 6.00pm for all 5-11 year olds by 2010. 

It also pledged to introduce a new duty on local authorities to ensure that quality affordable childcare is available where families live and a new legal framework for the regulation and inspection of early education and childcare by 2008, creating a single system for all services. These were delivered through the Childcare Act 2006.

The strategy also introduced a Transformation Fund of £125m a year from April 2006 to support investment by local authorities in quality affordable and sustainable childcare and pledged single quality framework for children from birth to five, taking an integrated approach to care and education.

On financial support, the strategy increased the maximum eligible costs in the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit from £135 to £175 a week for one child, and from £200 to £300 a week for two or more children from April 2005. From April 2006 there was an increase in the proportion of childcare costs covered by the tax credit from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. It also announced a series of pilots aimed at improving accessibility and affordability of childcare for parents on lower incomes living in London.

Read the full strategy.