From education to employment

The new childcare entitlements and Skills Bootcamps

Simon Ashworth-Campaign for Learning's latest series

Expanding Childcare: Time for children, parents and family learning

A central plank of the Chancellor’s Spring Budget earlier this year was supporting people to return to the labour market through increasing access to childcare. At the same time, upskilling and reskilling are critical to getting a good job rather than any job. So, we need to think creatively about joining-up the new entitlements to childcare and time to train and retrain.

The new planned entitlements

From April 2024, working parents of two-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).

All 3- to 4-year-olds and some disadvantaged 2-year-olds will still be entitled to 15 hours of childcare as this policy remains in place.

Childcare: just for work

To be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare, parents must work a minimum of 16 hours a week each, and earn the National Living Wage if they are 23 and over of £10.42 per hour, which is equivalent to £8,670 per year. They are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare spread over 38 weeks – but if they need to spread it over a year, it equates to 22 hours per week.

Full-time work is defined as 30 hours or more per week. So, the entitlement supports full- time work during term time (38 weeks). Part-time work is defined as fewer than 30 hours per week. So, the entitlement supports part-time work over a full year (52 weeks).

The childcare element of Universal Credit is also currently available to working parents – with no minimum number of working hours – and is in addition to the free entitlements. This may change as the entitlements to free childcare are extended.

Childcare: supporting skills training

To enable parents with young children to secure better jobs in the labour market, they need relevant training and retraining. So, the question must be asked whether access to free childcare through the entitlements should be flexed-up to support skills training.

A role for Skills Bootcamps

In turn, we need to ask whether there is a role for Skills Bootcamps. They offer free training at Level 2 to Level 5, lasting 13 to 16 weeks with a minimum of 50 hours training. The flexible, speedy nature of Skills Bootcamps make this an increasingly attractive option to offer parents of young children seeking new careers.

Even so, there is much to be done to improve Skills Bootcamps

Access routes for returners into high-skilled digital careers

Skills Bootcamps in the digital sector represent a golden opportunity to encourage more woman returners into critical high demand and highly paid technology jobs, whilst utilising the access to the Government’s new fully funded childcare offer to help enable this to be achieved.

One great example of a programme like this is Firebrand Training’s ‘TechHer’ programme supported by Microsoft, launching this month and helping woman in tech jobs. One of the key progression routes for Skills Bootcamps is to progress on an advanced or higher-level apprenticeship – within digital these are developed and highly recognised and valued by employers.

Quality of provision

It is essential to ensure providers delivering Skills Bootcamps are high quality and capable of delivering compliant and effective provision, while also encouraging new provider market entry. Evidence from Ofsted’s thematic review identified early warning signs, so it is important to ensure that there is a suitable quality threshold and due consideration of track record when contracting with providers to limit the risk of poor quality and provider failure.


Although Skills Bootcamps should certainly be subject to rigorous external oversight by Ofsted, judging the different range of bespoke programmes that are contractually agreed through the tendering process is complex. Inspectors should judge each programme individually and properly understand the variability of different provision being deployed through differing delivery models.

In their reporting on Skills Bootcamps, Ofsted should focus on the effective delivery of the programme and while referencing outcomes, focus being on the quality of provision and the outcomes it generates holistically for different cohorts of participants.

Simplifying audit, funding and funding rules

There are a number of audit, funding and funding rules issues that need solving. For instance, provision is currently independently audited by Department for Education (DfE) team members which is out of sync with the normal provider financial assurance process. There needs to be clear and defined audit and funding rules as per other mainstream provision for providers to follow and for DfE to commit to, as the process currently is too iterative.

Funding rules

There are also ways in which funding rules and arrangement need fixing. For example, the current contracting arrangements currently limit continuity. Short-term contracts and stop- start make it difficult to have continuity or capacity, so longer-term contracting is required. In addition, funding payments are not reflective of delivery costs. Indeed, the latest model also shifts the balance of payments to backend outcomes.

Scope of Skills Bootcamps

Further transparency is needed on the scope of Skills Bootcamps and, in particular, on how ‘high-priority’ sectors are selected. Currently, not all sectors with skills shortages are currently supported through the programme. For example, despite being a Migration Advisory Committee priority occupation, social care is not included. It would also be useful to see more Skills Bootcamps offered at Level 2.

The role of Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) needs to be closely looked at as the crossover between national DfE and regional tendering has already caused some confusion for providers and employers. The announcement to give deeper devolution to WMCA and GMCA gives more flexibility to enter different sectors, but deeper devolution also creates further differences between national, devolved and deeper devolution deals.

Recommendation 1

The Treasury, DfE and DWP should permit and encourage parents working 16 hours or more in return for 30-hours free childcare to participate in skills training. Participation could be extended to include Skills Bootcamps, where courses last no longer than 13 to 16 weeks and other short intensive programmes such as sector-based work academy programmes (SWAPs). Parents would benefit from free childcare and free training.

Recommendation 2

DWP should increase the awareness of Skills Bootcamp provision with Jobcentre Plus Advisors and promote how the existing entitlements to fully funded childcare of 15 hours and 30 hours can support woman returners.

Recommendation 3

DfE should continue to improve every aspect of Skills Bootcamps so parents of young children and adults in general can upskill and reskill speedily and effectively.

By Simon Ashworth, Policy Director, AELP

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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