Gillian Keegan: I’m confident of 15 hours of free childcare by April
Published: 05 February 2024, 12:16:36
The education secretary has said she is “confident” free childcare for two-year-olds in England will be ready in time for its April rollout.
Gillian Keegan told the BBC she would “deliver” the pledge for 15 hours per week free childcare to working parents.
She initially said she was “pretty confident” of delivering the hours, but later said she was “very confident”.
Ms Keegan did not confirm if the scheme would be ready for all eligible parents.
Campaigners have said the government is in “total denial” of technical problems and delays in recruiting staff.
From April, working parents of two-year-olds will get 15 hours per week during term time, with children from nine months included from September.
Working parents of children under five will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare per week when the scheme is fully rolled out from September 2025.
Following reports the scheme was under threat due to under recruitment of staff and problems in the rollout, the education department said it had fixed an IT issue.
Ms Keegan said the department was “working through thousands and thousands of businesses” to get the scheme up and running.
Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Keegan said she was “pretty confident” it would happen as plan, before upgrading her assessment to “very confident”.
But when asked earlier on Sky News programme Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips to guarantee the commitment will be met, Ms Keegan said: “Guaranteeing something in the future is something that you can never do.
“I am really confident that all the things that we have done will mean that every parent who wants to have a place is going to have a place.”
Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, called the response “another broken Tory promise”.
In a social media post, Ms Phillipson said: “The Education Secretary has made it clear. There are no guarantees that parents will receive their new childcare hours.”
Labour have trailed plans to boost childcare with thousands of new nursery places in primary schools, commissioning former head of Ofsted Sir David Bell to help find new ways to increase levels of childcare provision.