Councils will get an extra £204 million to help them deliver a major expansion of free childcare announced in the March budget, the Education Secretary has said.
Gillian Keegan told a conference for town hall chiefs the money, which local authorities will get from September, will allow them to increase the hourly rates they pay providers.
Funding allocations for each local authority will be confirmed later this week but the amount will rise each year, she added.
She told the Local Government Association Conference in Bournemouth: “It’s hard for young families to balance both their children’s education and their own careers, especially with financial challenges and especially in the early years.
“Parents in 2022 were paying nearly 6% more for childcare for under-twos and 6.4% more for two-year-olds than they were the previous year.
“This is why the Chancellor pledged the single-biggest investment in childcare this country has ever seen, and why by 2028 we will have doubled spending on childcare with more than £8 billion every year on early years education.”
The Government has already announced £289 million of funding to help councils set up and deliver wraparound childcare, which will become available next year.
From April next year, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare.
This will be extended to all children older than nine months from September next year.
From September 2025, working parents of under-fives will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.
Ms Keegan also told the conference too many children are not attending school regularly and she is “determined” to fix the problem.
Thousands of children, dubbed ‘ghost children’, have never returned to class since the first pandemic lockdown began, while absence rates have soared.
She said: “Sadly, tragically, too many children are not attending school regularly, are persistently absent or, are missing education altogether.
“Some have labelled these ‘ghost children’ – but I don’t like that label – they are real children, and their potential is being cut short.
“I am determined we fix this, and I am grateful for the work you have already done with schools and families to ensure that they and their children get the right support.”
She insisted that “bit by bit, little by little”, the Government’s approach, which includes attendance advisers working with around 115 councils, is working.
She went on: “This is critical in the next few months as we know that children who miss the first few days of the new term, without good reason, are much more likely to miss long periods of their schooling than their peers.
“By September we want to be welcoming as many children back to school as possible.
“I believe, truly, that not only can we get this right, but that working together, we will get this right.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub