• Tuesday, May 28, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Labour considers integrating nurseries within primary schools across UK

This initiative, outlined closer to the election plans to provide a seamless transition for parents from the end of parental leave until their children are ready to begin school

The UK’s childcare system ranks among the world’s most expensive, with some parents allocating up to 80% of their take-home pay for childcare – Representative Image: iStock

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Labour is exploring the idea of integrating thousands of nurseries within existing primary schools across England, aiming to address the persisting shortage of childcare spaces, their unaffordability, and staffing challenges.

To devise innovative strategies in this sector, the party has engaged Sir David Bell, former head of Ofsted, (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), who will offer guidance on potential solutions.

This initiative, outlined closer to the election, considers integrating nurseries into schools, providing a seamless transition for parents from the end of parental leave until their children are ready to begin school, The Guardian reported.

Bell, who previously served as Ofsted’s chief inspector and later as the top civil servant at the Department for Education, is expected to offer recommendations to tackle these ongoing childcare issues.

A Labour source emphasised a targeted approach toward addressing childcare shortages in underserved areas, highlighting that simply extending childcare hours wouldn’t benefit parents if there aren’t enough available spaces.

They expressed skepticism among families regarding the Tories’ offerings, especially in constituencies crucial for Labour in the upcoming election.

The party intends to provide further details, including the funding mechanism for these additional places, assuring that the policy will be adequately financed.

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry, speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday (28), stressed the need for a comprehensive review, asserting that any proposed measures would receive proper funding.

Childcare accessibility and affordability may emerge as a significant electoral issue, with Labour planning to attack the Conservatives for their perceived lack of effective solutions to address these challenges.

The government has initiated an expansion of free childcare services, offering 15 hours per week of taxpayer-funded childcare for 38 weeks annually to eligible working parents of two-year-olds starting from April next year.

Starting September 2025, all qualifying parents of children under five will be eligible for funding, receiving 30 hours of childcare per week for 38 weeks per year.

However, there are concerns raised by experts about potential discrepancies in accessing this provision, warning of a postcode lottery scenario.

A recent Guardian analysis revealed a sharp decline in the number of not-for-profit nurseries in England’s most deprived areas.

Initially considering universal free childcare for children over nine months old, Labour is now contemplating a means-tested approach, gradually reducing support for higher-income families.

The UK’s childcare system ranks among the world’s most expensive, with some parents allocating up to 80% of their take-home pay for childcare.

To explore viable solutions, Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, conducted research in countries like Estonia and Australia to understand their early years care provisions.

The scarcity of affordable childcare spaces significantly impacts the economy, often leading parents—mostly mothers—to either quit jobs or reduce working hours.

According to a Fawcett Society survey last month, approximately 250,000 mothers with young children left their jobs due to challenges balancing work and childcare.

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