Today’s news review looks at a report on universal free childcare and the freedom that schools have to set their own term dates.
Today, Monday 6 February, the Institute of Economic Affairs issued a report on universal free childcare. The report recommends that the state should provide more targeted support for poor families instead of its universal offer. This has been covered by The Times, ITV News, Daily Mail and the Sun.
All parents are entitled to 15 hours a week free childcare for three and four-year-olds with the most disadvantaged families also benefitting from 15 hours a week for two-year-olds. Some families also benefit through the early years pupil premium.
The Government has confirmed that funding provided to local authorities for their maintained nursery schools, which often cater for some of the most disadvantaged children, will be extended until the end of this Parliament and is worth £55 million a year.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Helping families with high quality, affordable childcare is at the heart of this government’s agenda - that’s why we are investing a record £6billion per year by 2020.
Our 30 hours free offer for 3 and 4 year olds is set to save working parents up to £5,000 per year and we’re also supporting the most disadvantaged families through our free 15 hours offer for 2 year olds and our pupil premium – worth over £300 a year per eligible child.
On Sunday, 5 February, the Sunday Express wrote an article calling for the government to explore regionally staggering school summer holidays to ease peak season price rises, reduce traffic congestion, and create more seasonal employment.
What the report ignored is that schools and local authorities already have the power to do this.
A Department for education spokesperson said:
Academies, free schools and some faith schools already have freedom over their term dates, and all local authorities have the power to vary term dates for the rest, including for individual schools. We encourage local authorities to listen sympathetically to arguments for changes to term dates.