Today’s blog looks at the steps we are taking to help parents with free childcare, the opening of 53 new Free Schools and the work going into supporting autistic children in education.
Today, Tuesday 4 September, the Pre-School Learning Alliance published findings from a survey about the government’s 30 hour free childcare initiative. This has received coverage from BBC News and the Independent.
Government funding is intended to deliver between 15 and 30 hours a week of free, reliable and flexible childcare for eligible three and four year-olds. Our national average total hourly funding rating to local authorities has increased from £4.56 to nearly £5.
Our research has shown that more than 80 per cent of providers already deliver government childcare and are willing and able to offer places under this programme, with 40 per cent able to increase staffing hours.
This funding is to provide high quality childcare at trusted nurseries, however it is not designed to cover the cost of meals and other consumables, which providers should feel free to charge for.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
More than 340,000 children have benefited from a 30 hours place in its first year, as childcare providers have risen to the challenge of delivering the offer – meaning that thousands of hardworking parents are saving up to £5,000 a year on their childcare bills.
We are spending more than any other government on childcare support with £1 billion extra funding a year to deliver all of this government’s free childcare offers. We continue to monitor delivery costs and we have commissioned new research to provide further information on the costs around childcare.
Today, Tuesday 4 September, we have announced the opening of 53 new Free Schools and one University Technical College for the new academic year. This has been covered by The i.
The opening of these new institutions includes schools backed by Sky and Saracens Rugby Club, and will see the creation of 40,000 new quality school places for pupils.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:
I want to create new, great schools where they are needed most and give parents greater choice when looking at the schools that are right for their children. For years, innovative free schools have been leading the way on this – from the specialist maths schools run by some of our top universities to the special free schools creating places for children who have additional learning needs.
The new schools opening their doors this term will build on this record, bringing in the likes of Saracens Rugby Club and Sky to provide pupils with excellent sports activities and classes on cutting edge media technology. Thanks to reforms like this and the hard work of our teachers, we have 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 – I look forward to seeing these new schools flourish too.
Today, Tuesday 4 September, the Times ran a piece on the number of autistic pupils being excluded from schools.
The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year – the highest on record. Thanks to the additional £1.3 billion funding announced last year, each local authority will receive an increase in high needs funding over the next two years.
Over this same time period, the department will be funding the Autism Education Trust with £1.45 million to deliver autism training to staff in early years education, schools and colleges.
We are clear exclusion should always be the last resort, and that any decision to exclude a pupil should be lawful, reasonable and fair.
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
We want every child with autism to have the support they need to unlock their potential, no matter what challenges they face. That is why we have fundamentally reformed support for children with special educational needs by making sure that families are at the heart of the process with Education health and care plans that are tailored to individuals. This reform has led to more children and young people getting the support they need at school and college, and the number who move on to training schemes, apprenticeships or supported internships is increasing.
But for too many children, there are still unexplainable differences in their experiences of education, with those with autism twice as likely to be permanently excluded. That is why Edward Timpson CBE is currently reviewing how schools use exclusions and what drives exclusion rates so that we can better understand why certain groups of children are more likely to face exclusions from school and why certain areas of the country have higher rates.
You can read here about our vision for reforming Alternative Provisions to ensure all children are offered equal opportunities.