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Expansion plans require 85,000 more childcare places by September 2025 | Childcare

An estimated 85,000 additional childcare places would be required by September 2025 to enable the government’s planned expansion of funded childcare for working parents in England, according to the Department for Education.

A pilot will explore how to repurpose unused school space to support childcare and increase capacity. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to expand funded childcare for eligible families of children as young as nine months old.

The rollout will require an estimated 40,000 additional staff, compared with 2023, the DfE said.

As part of the scheme, working parents of two-year-olds have been able to access 15 hours of funded childcare this month. This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September this year, before the full rollout of 30 hours a week to all eligible families a year later.

The government estimates 15,000 new childcare places will be needed for this September, with an additional 70,000 likely to be needed for September 2025 when the offer expands to 30 government-funded hours for children from nine months old to when they start school.

So far nearly four in five (79%) of the codes issued to eligible parents of two-year-olds across England to secure childcare funding for this month have been validated by providers, said the DfE, with thousands more having their places confirmed over the coming weeks.

The latest data, to be published on Monday, will show that 195,355 two-year-olds are already benefiting from funded places. Eligible working parents can apply regardless of whether they are in work or on parental leave. As long as a parent plans to return to work or start a new job by the end of September, they will now be able to apply for their childcare code in May at the same time as everyone else, the DfE said.

The education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said: “As today’s figures show, our plan is working. Thousands of parents are returning to work, and tens of thousands more will be able to do so later this year and next. Childcare expansion on this scale is unprecedented in this country, and we will continue providing maximum support to nurseries and all providers to make it a reality.”

Neil Leitch, the chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “With government admitting not only that 40,000 additional educators are required by September 2025 but also 85,000 new places, it’s clear that, regardless of the positive spin government is trying to put on the current situation, the challenge facing the sector is an immense one.

“If the government is to have any hope of rolling out this offer successfully in the long term, it’s crucial that ministers acknowledge and tackle the fundamental issues facing nurseries, preschools and providers.

Jonathan Broadbery, the director of policy and communications at the National Day Nurseries Association, said many nurseries have waiting lists. “Nurseries are working hard to deliver the existing offer, but creating additional places for under-twos can be very challenging.

“With high staff turnover as well, it is clear that the sector will need to recruit more than the 40,000 staff needed if we are also to replace those who leave,” he said.

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