Labor plans to create thousands of nursery places in existing primary schools in England and has tasked former Ofsted chief Sir David Bell with finding new ways to increase childcare levels.
In the latest development in Labor Party policy in an area which still experiences a widespread shortage of places, as well as a lack of prices and staff, Bell will advise on potential ways to tackle this problem, with detailed policies defined in the run-up to elections.
Bell was Ofsted’s chief inspector from 2002 to 2006, then became the Department for Education’s most senior civil servant.
The plans, first reported by the timecould include integrating nurseries into schools, meaning parents could take their children to the same site from the end of parental leave until the children are old enough to start at the school itself .
A Labor source said special attention was being paid to creating space in areas where it was lacking: “Childcare hours are of no use to parents if they can’t find place – which is why families are skeptical of what conservatives have proposed, especially in some places. Labor must win at the next election,” they said.
Further details still need to be worked out, but Labor says the policy will be properly funded.
Asked about funding on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday morning, Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said: “That’s why we need to have a proper review.” One thing I can tell you is that whatever we announce will be properly funded.
Childcare, and particularly the lack of affordable provision and prices, could become a major battleground in the next election, with Labor set to attack the Conservatives for what they see as a lack of viable solutions.
The government has introduced an extension of free childcare, under which working parents with two-year-old children will receive 15 hours a week of taxpayer-funded childcare for 38 weeks a year from next April.
After September 2025, all eligible parents of children under five will be able to receive funding for 30 hours of care per week for 38 weeks per year.
However, experts have warned that access to this provision could be a postcode lottery, with Guardian analysis last month showing that the number of not-for-profit nurseries in England’s most deprived areas has fallen sharply .
Labor had considered the idea of universal, free childcare for children over nine months, but is now considering a means-tested system, reducing support for families on higher incomes.
The UK has one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world, with some parents spending up to 80% of their take-home pay on caring for young children.
As part of research into what Labor could offer, Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, traveled to countries including Estonia and Australia to see how they provide child care early childhood.
The lack of affordable child care spaces is also seen as having a significant economic impact, with parents of young children, usually mothers, forced to leave their jobs or reduce their hours.
Last month, a survey by the Fawcett Society estimated that around 250,000 mothers of young children had left their jobs due to difficulties balancing work and childcare.