From education to employment

A thriving society means linking the new childcare entitlements to adult learning

Susan Pember- Expanding Childcare: Time for children, parents and family learning

Expanding Childcare: Time for children, parents and family learning

Childcare and adult learning are two essential components of a thriving society. They enable parents to work, pursue education, and contribute to the economy, while also fostering personal growth and development.

However, many families struggle to access affordable and high-quality childcare, particularly those on low incomes. This can limit their ability to work or progress in their careers, leading to a lack of financial security and a perpetuation of poverty.

Although implementation comes with its challenges, it is also an opportunity for the further education sector who will need to train the extra staff needed when childcare is extended.

Extending childcare – but not far enough

Supporting parents with childcare entitlements can help to address this issue by ensuring that all families have access to affordable and high-quality childcare.

  • From April 2024, working parents of 2-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare – equivalent to 570 hours per year.
  • From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended down to the age of 9 months – for working parents – equivalent to 570 hours per year.
  • From September 2025, working parents of children aged 9 months and upwards will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week right up to their child starting school – equivalent to 1,140 hours per year (DfE Education Hub, June 2023).

Even so, the entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare for all 3- to 4- year olds will remain in place as will the entitlement of 15 hours for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.

Whilst these reforms are welcome, they do not go far enough. Every family with children aged 9 months to 2 years should have access to free childcare of 15 hours per week.

Time for adult training

An extended childcare system would help give more children the opportunity to develop social and educational skills.

Affordable childcare should improve the financial situation of families and the financial position of women in particular, who are more likely than men to reduce their working hours or leave the workforce altogether due to caring responsibilities.

Affordable childcare can also help to close the gender pay gap and promote gender equality.

But the Government must make sure the extended entitlements to free childcare provide time for parents of young children to train and retrain to get a good job rather than any job, and, if they are already working, to progress in their careers.

Time for adult learning

Of course, entitlements to free childcare of 15 and 30 hours per week are only part of the equation. We also need to enable parents to use these time entitlements to participate in skills training and adult learning more generally.

Many parents need to regain confidence and refresh their maths, English and digital skills. Adult learning is a crucial component of a thriving society, as it enables individuals to develop new skills, knowledge, and expertise, and pursue their personal and professional goals.

Free childcare should help to overcome the problem of affording childcare to participate in adult learning.

Being permitted and encouraged to learn during some of the hours of free childcare – if a place can be secured of course – should ease the time constraints on hard pressed parents of young children.

The cost of adult further education should not generally be a barrier either. Many courses are fully funded. This includes the recently introduced Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which offers adults without a Level 3 qualification (equivalent to A-Levels) the chance to access fully funded courses in a range of sectors. Plus, there are still free programmes for adult literacy and numeracy for those with poor basic skills.

The FE sector must ensure appropriate courses are available during periods when childcare is being provided.

Training childcare professionals

The expansion of childcare services also provides an opportunity to invest in the recruitment and training of more childcare providers and teachers. By doing so, it can ensure that there is an adequate supply of skilled and qualified professionals to meet the growing demand for childcare services.

Training more teachers will not only help to meet the demand for childcare services, but it will also improve the quality of care and education provided to children. Studies have shown that high-quality early childhood education can have a positive impact on a child’s academic and social development, as well as their long-term outcomes.

Therefore, investing in the recruitment and training of more teachers and support workers is a crucial step in ensuring that children receive the best possible care and education.

This can be achieved through initiatives such as providing funding for teacher training and development, creating apprenticeships and training programmes for new teachers, and offering incentives to attract and retain qualified professionals in the childcare sector.

Furthermore, training more staff can also provide opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups to enter the profession. By promoting diversity and inclusion in the early childhood education workforce, we can ensure that all children receive care and education that reflects their backgrounds and experiences.

Wider support for children and families

There is a further prize which must be grasped for a thriving society. The extension of free childcare for parents of young children provides an opportunity for parents and children to learn together.

Recommendation 1

DfE should communicate to parents who must work for a minimum of 16 hours per week in return for 30 hours of free childcare that they can combine working hours with time to train and retrain. Parents do not have to work every hour their child is in childcare. DfE should also make clear to working parents that in many instances the training will be free. DfE should encourage parents to consider using some of the time when their child is in childcare to participate in short adult learning courses including basic numeracy, literacy and IT courses.

Recommendation 2

The Government must increase funding for the Adult Education Budget – devolved and non-devolved allocations – to support the training of adult childcare professionals. Extra funding will also be needed for early years and childcare courses studied by 16- to 18-year- olds and for childcare apprenticeships.

Recommendation 3

DfE should use the introduction of extended entitlements to free childcare to re-invigorate family learning, so that parents and young children can reap the benefits of learning together.

By Susan Pember, Policy Director, HOLEX

Campaign for Learning has released a new series of articles, Expanding Childcare: Time for children, parents and family learning.

See below when each article will be published on FE News:

Part One: Childcare the welfare state – 20th July

1. Will Snell, Chief Executive, The Fairness Foundation

Childcare and a new social contract

2. Anneka Dawson, Head of Pre-16 Education, Ceri Williams, Senior Research Fellow, and Alexandra Nancarrow, Research Fellow, Institute for Employment Studies

The childcare sector: Providers and the workforce in England

Part Two: Childcare and time for work – 21st July

3. Paul Bivand, Independent Policy Analyst

Women, employment and childcare

4. James Cockett, Labour Market Economist and Claire McCartney, Policy Adviser, Resourcing and Inclusion, CIPD

The planned childcare entitlements and progression into work

5. Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive, Working Families

Combining flexible working and childcare to solve the childcare crisis

Part Three: Childcare and time for child development – 24th July

6. Janeen Hayat, Director of Collective Action, Fair Education Alliance

Improving childcare quality to support educational outcomes

7. Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare

Making a step change to child development through childcare

8. Professor Elizabeth Rapa and Professor Louise Dalton, University of Oxford

Childcare, children’s development and education outcomes

Part Four: Childcare and time for parental engagement – 25th July

9. Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility, University of Exeter

The childcare revolution: A new opportunity for parental partnerships in child learning

10. Bea Stevenson, Head of Education, Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health

Childcare and parental engagement in child learning

Part Five: Childcare and time for adult skills – 26th July

11. Simon Ashworth, Policy Director, AELP

The new childcare entitlements and skills bootcamps

12. Sharon Cousins, Vice Principal, Newham College and National Association for Managers of Student Services Executive

The new childcare entitlements and access to further education

13. Susan Pember, Policy Director, HOLEX

A thriving society means linking the new childcare entitlements to adult learning

Part Six: Childcare and time for family learning –

27th July

14. Sam Freedman, Senior Fellow, Institute for Government

The childcare revolution and family learning

15. Susan Doherty, Development Officer – Family Learning, Education Scotland

Family learning and childcare: Lessons from Scotland

28th July

16. Susannah Chambers, Independent Consultant

Bringing childcare and family learning together

17. Henriett Toth, Parent

Family learning and childcare: A personal experience

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