Education and Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah visited Paris last week, where he exchanged ideas with his French counterpart around their shared priorities of expanding high-quality childcare, and ensuring all children get the best possible start in life.
The importance of early years cannot be understated - a child’s life chances are already being decided before they have even fastened their shoes on their first day of school.
That’s why this government is committed to making sure every family has access to high-quality childcare so that more parents can return to work if they choose to, without being restricted by the cost of childcare.
And we have pledged to offer 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds as well introducing Tax-Free Childcare from 2017, which will give up to 1.8 million families the opportunity to receive up to £2,000 of support per year, per child.
Education and Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah said:
We are committed to making sure that every family regardless of their background has access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
And in France, high-quality childcare is central to efforts to support families to balance their work and home life. That’s why I’m keen to find out what works for them, and share best practice with our European neighbours.
The minister spent 22 to 23 September in Paris, finding out how French childcare providers not only provide early education for children, but support parents in getting back to work.
He met with practitioners and visited a number of providers, including Crèche la Maison de Gavroche, to see how childcare can be scaled up in disadvantaged communities, and the Crèche l’Arc-en-Ciel, where he learned how unemployed and single parents can be helped back to work, with support such as wrap-around care and CV writing workshops.
He also met with the Deputy Head of Mission, where he discussed strengths and weaknesses of the French system with key leaders in the early years, and had lunch with the National Family Benefits Fund Agency, to explore funding reforms and the delivery of additional childcare places focused on disadvantaged communities.
The minister also paid a visit to the OECD headquarters, where he met with Andreas Schleicher, Montserrat Gomendio and Yuri Belfali, and found out about improving the international evidence base on early childhood education and care.
And at the Ministry of Education, Sam Gyimah took part in in-depth policy discussions on the latest reforms of early education, training of early years teachers, and how resources can be allocated to tackling disadvantaged children.
The visit comes after the French Minister for Childhood, Family, Ageing and Autonomy, Laurence Rossignol, visited London in February. While in the UK she met with Sam Gyimah to discuss childcare provision and support for parents.
Among the innovative ways of delivering early years education in France are:
- ‘bridging classes’, which help children get ready for school
- crèches that coach parents back to work
- childcare centres based in nursing homes
- pre-schools supporting the parents of children who are at risk of being taken into care
Notes to editors
This government spends £5 billion on childcare - more than any previous government and an increase of £1 billion since 2010.
Through the introduction of the Childcare Bill we will enshrine in law this government’s absolute commitment to supporting working families.
More parents than ever before are taking up the free childcare offer, with 99% of 4-year-olds and 94% of 3-year-olds now accessing 15 hours a week of free childcare.
The new 30-hour offer doubles the amount of free childcare available to hard working parents with 3- and 4-year-olds to 1,140 hours per year. This is worth £5,000 per child per year.