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Families can now enrol children for funded places for August.
A nationwide public information campaign is encouraging families to enrol their children for funded early learning and childcare ahead of a major expansion this summer.
From August, all three and four-year-olds, and around a quarter of two-year-olds, will benefit from 1,140 hours of childcare a year - the most generous offer in the UK.
Parents or carers can register through their local authority and apply for the option that suits their needs, from the choices available locally - whether a local authority, private or third sector nursery, playgroup or childminder.
Backed by an unprecedented £2 billion investment, the increase in funded hours has required significant recruitment and infrastructure - more than 270 nurseries have been built, extended or refurbished since March 2018 and an additional 4,300 full time equivalent staff are already in post.
Due to the phasing in of the increased entitlement, almost 50,000 children are already benefitting from more than the current 600 hours they are entitled to, allowing parents and carers to explore work, education and training opportunities.
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:
“If you’ve got a child who will be two, three or four, now is the time to see what they could receive from this August.
“Tens of thousands of children are already benefitting from high-quality early learning and childcare, and I’ve heard first-hand how it’s helped to boost their confidence and communication skills, and given them access to more opportunities such as outdoor learning.
“I’ve also heard how it has made an enormous difference to families in terms of enabling mums and dads to get back into, or spend more time studying, working or training.
“I would encourage all parents with eligible children to get in touch with their local authority to identify the funded option that is best for their child from the great choices available, and find out when to apply.
“There is no cost to families who take up this offer so the 1,140 hours can save each family as much as £4,500, and we hope that this campaign will let as many families as possible know what they are entitled to.”
Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA Children and Young People’s spokesperson said:
“Local Government is committed to getting the best outcomes for all our children, and that’s why we are working with our partners to almost double the number of funded Early learning and Childcare hours available to families from August 2020.
“It’s fantastic that over 50,000 children have already benefitted from these additional hours, which will give children new opportunities to play and learn, and give parents the opportunity to return to work, take up training or just have more flexibility in their childcare arrangements.
“With the launch of this new campaign, we are encouraging parents to get in touch with their Council to find out what their options are locally.”
The public information campaign will run for eight weeks from Monday 13 January 2020 across radio, outdoor advertising and social media.
Families should visit the Parent Club website to find out how to enrol for funded early learning and childcare places in their area.
Local authorities have individual application processes and deadlines. The Parent Club website will link to your local authority for more information.
All nurseries, playgroups and childminders providing funded places will be required to meet strict quality criteria as part of the new National Standard, including achieving good or better Care Inspectorate quality evaluations, and are also required to carry out continuous professional development.