30 hours early education and childcare- the Extended Entitlement

As you will be aware, from 1st September 2017 three and four-year-old children with working parents have been entitled to 30 hours per week of free early education and childcare, rather than the 15 hours that all children of this age receive. Details of the scheme and the eligibility criteria can be found on the Southwark website or the news pages of the Southwark schools website.

The scheme was launched in Southwark and nationally this term and we are pleased with the local take up at this early stage.  We believe that 750 children are already benefiting from this offer and receiving more than 15 hours of free provision per week. This includes children taking up their extended hours in Southwark at:

  • 5 Maintained Nursery Schools;
  • 28 Primary Schools with nursery classes;
  • 67 private,  voluntary and independent sector nurseries;
  • 12 registered childminders.

Nevertheless we believe that there are many more children who would be eligible for additional hours funding, and many schools and early years settings who have some spare capacity that could be filled by children taking up more hours.

Benefits of offering 30 hours places

Southwark would strongly encourage all schools with nursery provision to consider whether they could offer more 30 hours places to eligible children from January 2018. 

There are clear benefits in doing so:

  • For children: some children will benefit from the consistency of accessing good quality education provision for more hours.
  • For parents: many parents will find it easier to access employment and make savings on the high costs of childcare.
  • For schools: additional funding is provided for children attending for extended hours. For instance a child who is currently attending a school nursery for 15 hours would trigger an additional £2231 (plus deprivation funding) between January and July 2018 if they were to move to 30 hours in January. A nursery child attending for 30 hours for a school year attracts funding of at least £6783 per year – with deprivation funding this amount can rise to a maximum of £8208 per child. Over time parents are likely to choose nurseries which offer the additional hours, so providing 30 hours places will help make nurseries financially viable.
  • For Southwark: the level of Dedicated Schools Grant provided to Southwark by the Department for Education is based on numbers of children in provision at the January census date. More children in provision leads to more funding in the system for early years services.

What to do next

A starting point for schools not currently offering 30 hours places, and with some additional capacity, could be to encourage parents of children who are already accessing 15 hours places to check if they are eligible for extra hours. Schools might also want to consider admitting additional children in January 2018 and checking if they are eligible.

A small number of schools are offering full time nursery places to all children using their own funding to pay for additional hours. By checking which of these children would be entitled to 30 hours funding and claiming for them these schools could be attracting significant additional funding to pay for these places instead.

Please signpost parents to the Childcare Choices website Government website where they can check their eligibility:

If the parent is eligible they will be given a code which they will bring in to the school. The school will then need to confirm that this is currently valid, including the eligibility start date. Please make sure that this is done before you confirm offer of extended hours. This will prevent any disputes if it transpires that a parent is not entitled to the free place when your census submission is verified by the Council.

Southwark has established an online Early Years Provider Portal where schools and early years settings can verify for themselves parents’ 30 hours eligibility codes. The portal is linked to the National Eligibility Checking Service (ECS), which will give you an immediate response to an eligibility check.  This means you will no longer be required to send 30 hour checks forms to the Council for verification.  Schools Finance is currently gathering details from schools so that they can be issued with a user ID, password and manual for this system.  

Please check that your school has returned the ‘Portal Registration Form’ to schoolsfinance@southwark.gov.uk

Once we have received this, the school will be sent a registration letter containing details of their login to the provider portal.  Without this you will not be able to check if children are eligible for a 30 hours place, or, if you offer two year old places, eligibility for these.

Please note that to be eligible for extended hours from January 2018, the parent(s) must have applied on the Childcare Choices site by 31 December 2017, and it is recommended that they apply as soon as possible.

If you are planning to offer extended hours for the first time in January please complete the attached ‘Expression of Interest Form’ (docx, 76kb)and send it to earlylearninginfo@southwark.gov.uk so that it can be included on the list of participating early years settings that is provided to parents. We can also supply a free banner to put outside your school advertising that you are offering places.

Funding

The school census now includes fields for schools to state how many extended hours children are attending for, and to enter eligibility codes.

Southwark is also in the process of implementing an online Headcount Portal linked to the eligibility checker which will in future be used both to claim funding and to carry out regular checks to verify ongoing eligibility, as we are required to do by the Department for Education. Further details of this will be circulated to provisions shortly.

Schools Finance will be using school census returns and, later, the Headcount Portal to establish the level of funding due to maintained schools (academy schools are funded via the Free Early Learning Team). As mentioned above, schools must make sure that they have verified eligibility codes before entering them in their census returns.

Please note that although the scheme is being described as ‘30 hours childcare’, there is no requirement for a school to offer the full 15 additional hours. For instance, if you were only able to offer 10 additional hours per week, you would just claim funding for the 10 extended hours. The parent could take up the balance of their free hours elsewhere if they wished to.

Although this is a new initiative which has had some well-publicised national implementation issues, there is an opportunity for schools which we would encourage you to explore.

For further information or for queries about the 30 hours programme (not funding queries) please contact the Free Early Learning Team, earlylearninginfo@southwark.gov.uk.

If your query relates to 30 hour funding please contact the Schools Finance helpline  0207 525 3888 or email  schoolsfinance@southwark.gov.uk.