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 STOKE-ON-TRENT, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME, STAFFORDSHIRE MOORLANDS, SOUTH CHESHIRE

Extra help for pre-school children and parents



Expanded childcare for pre-school years will help thousands of children and their parents.

Increases in Government-funded hours for increasingly younger children, begin in April 2024.

And Staffordshire County Council is planning how it can use the expansion to help families and childcare providers.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “The introduction of additional funded childcare is great news for parents but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for young children.

“At 97 per cent, almost all Staffordshire’s pre-school providers are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ so this gives toddlers very good play and learning opportunities that will help them make the most of school.”

The expansion of Government-funded childcare means that from April, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare a week.

Then, from September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended down to the age of nine months for eligible working parents.

And finally, from September 2025, eligible working parents of children aged nine months and upwards will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare per week right up to their child starting school.

The council is allocating increasing numbers of staff to work with pre-school providers, from nurseries to childminders, to share expertise and introduce specialist help at an early age for children identified as needing it.


One challenge for the authority is the increasing number of children being identified as having delayed development, or Special Educational Needs, at pre-school age, with figures showing a 70 per cent increase in referrals from 600 in 2019 to 1,020 in 2023.


Staffordshire County Council has already piloted two trials programmes for the Department for Education focusing on speech and development in young children, with excellent results.


Mark Sutton added: “One project, Hungry Little Minds, has focused on encouraging parents to chat, play and read with their babies from the outset, while the other, the Early Communication Screening, helps professionals identify any speech or communication issues at the earliest opportunity and find the appropriate help.


“Both have been a great success in Staffordshire and we will use those schemes and the benefits that come from attending a good pre-school, to help get our young children ready to make the most of school and get the best start in life.”


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