Agenda item

Agenda item

A progress update on Childcare Sufficiency 2023 and the Early Years Capital programme

Report of the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services


Local authorities are required by legislation to secure sufficient childcare, as far as is reasonably practicable, for working parents, or parents who are studying or training for employment and for children aged 0-14 (or up to 18 for disabled children). They are also required to shape and support the development of flexible and sustainable childcare which is responsive to the needs of the community. Childcare provision in Manchester continues to be of an extremely high quality and there are currently no settings judged to be inadequate in the City.


Manchester’s Childcare Sufficiency Report 2023 reveals that there are sufficient places to meet current demand, but pressure is likely to build in response to the expanded entitlements launching in 2024. This is being carefully monitored and plans are being developed to respond to potential demand.


This report also includes a summary of progress to date on the capital investment made in the city council’s Early Years estate.



The Committee considered a report of the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services which provided an overview of the Manchester’s Childcare Sufficiency Report 2023 and a summary of progress to date on the capital investment made in the Council’s Early Years estate.


Key points and themes in the report included:


  • The Early Years National Context;
  • Sufficiency of childcare and early learning opportunities in Manchester;
  • New childcare entitlements from April 2024;
  • Provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND);
  • Capital improvements to the Early Years estate;
  • Phase 2 update;
  • Additional developments to the Early Years estate; and
  • Lease reviews.


Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:


  • To welcome the focus on training the workforce;
  • The decarbonisation bids for six Early Years buildings;
  • Concern that the funding to develop and expand wraparound childcare in Manchester for primary school aged children from working households only related to term-time; and
  • That some of the areas with insufficient 2-year-old places to meet potential demand were very close together (for example, Old Moat, Withington and Fallowfield) and what was being done to address this.


The Lead for Statutory Area Early Year Access and Sufficiency reported that she would speak to officers in Capital Programmes to get an update on the decarbonisation bids.  In response to a Member’s question, she provided an overview of the Dingley’s Promise Inclusive Practice Training and stated that she would check how FASD was covered in the training and respond to the Member.  She acknowledged the Member’s point about working parents needing wraparound childcare during school holidays and stated that it was hoped that developing sustainable wrapround provision during term-time, which included supporting families to claim all their entitlements, would help providers to extend the offer further. 


The Director of Education highlighted the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) scheme which ran during the school holidays for children who were eligible for Free School Meals (FSM).


The Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People reported that a lot of work was taking place on Early Years buildings which would have a demonstrable impact on the buildings’ carbon footprint, whether or not the bids referred to in the report were successful.


The Chair expressed concern about changes in immigration rules, levels of pay and qualification requirements in the Early Years sector affecting recruitment and retention.  She highlighted that the new funding for wraparound care was for the set-up costs and that parents would still have to pay for their children to attend breakfast clubs and after-school clubs under the current Government.  She informed Members about the difficulties some parents in her ward were experiencing in finding childcare places.  She asked what was being done to increase capacity in the Early Years sector as the free offer expanded, including the recruitment of additional childminders, advising that billboards could be used, as well as reaching out to black and ethnic minority communities.  She expressed concern that asbestos removal work to the Early Years estate in her area had been carried out during the day and advised that it should be carried out on evenings and weekends.


The Lead for Statutory Area Early Year Access and Sufficiency confirmed that recruitment and retention of staff was the main issue affecting the sustainability of the Early Years sector.  She reported that the Council was working with Greater Manchester colleagues on strategies to address this, including training opportunities, as well as raising this issue through consultations.  She stated that this had included sending representation on the challenges being faced to the Education Select Committee, including highlighting that pay rates were low.  She acknowledged Members’ concerns about neighbouring wards which had sufficiency issues, advising that her team looked at this wider picture, and she provided an update on the areas Members had raised and work to improve sufficiency, including exploring options for existing providers to expand their provision and supporting providers with the recruitment and retention of staff.  In response to comments from the Chair about encouraging schools to increase their Early Years capacity, including taking children from the age of two, she confirmed that this was something which could be explored further in areas where more places were needed.  She informed Members about a consultation that the Council was currently undertaking with childminders in the city, including making them aware of the new funding streams.  She reported that due diligence was being carried out in relation to all asbestos removal work.


The Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People expressed concern that the Government was expanding entitlement to free childcare without funding the sector properly.  He informed Members about plans to better recognise and reward the work of childcare providers, including an event at Gorton Monastery in February 2024.




To note the report.

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