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Free childcare available to more families at Good and Outstanding-rated nurseries

Article date - 12 November 2020

St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet has approved proposals which will see eligible families given the opportunity to apply for free early education provision at quality settings for their two-year-olds without the need to go through a complex application process.
Early Years

The announcement comes on the back of news that all private and voluntary nurseries operating in St Helens Borough are now rated to be either graded 'Good' or 'Outstanding' by Ofsted - a huge achievement meaning that any child who attends a setting will receive high-quality education and excellent care.   
  
Parents or carers in receipt of certain benefits will be given a letter which can be presented to a preferred nursery or childminder to access 15 hours of funded early learning and childcare. Accessing high quality early education at the age of two has benefits for children's social and cognitive development, as well as supporting parent wellbeing.   
  
Uptake of two-year-old Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) places in St Helens Borough has fallen since the introduction of Universal Credit and the need to manually process eligibility checks – but with the availability of Good and Outstanding nurseries across the borough, and a more streamlined application process, the council hopes the new approach will encourage further take up by eligible families.    

Commenting on the benefits of her child attending an early years setting, Leanne Chisnall from Newton-le-Willows whose son Leon attends a nursery in the borough, said:   
 
"The support from nursery allows my husband and I to fulfil full time employment in the knowledge that our son is receiving high-quality care, ensuring that he is achieving key developmental milestones. Leon loves playing with his friends and learning new things.   
  
“It's a pleasure to see how he has progressed since beginning nursery."  
  
Welcoming the decision, Councillor Kate Groucutt, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business, said:   
  
“As a mum of two young children, I know first-hand the benefits to children of being in a high- quality early years setting. Not only does it help to prepare them for school in a few years’ time, but it is also a really fun experience and a chance to access the creative and caring environment offered by our local nurseries and childminders.    
  
“This opportunity should be available to more young children as we look to narrow the gap in learning and development between disadvantaged children and their peers.   
  
“Here in St Helens Borough, all of our private, voluntary, and independent nurseries are now judged to be either Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, which is a fantastic achievement.  
  
“The early years sector has played a key role throughout the coronavirus pandemic, staying open to look after the children of keyworkers and making lots of changes to keep children and staff safe since wider reopening. I would like to thank them for these efforts, and as a council we are very grateful for their commitment to working with us to giving every child the best start in life.”  
  
For more information on Free Early Education Entitlement, visit: www.sthelens.gov.uk/schools-education/early-years