DfE announces £2.15m technology funding to support 30 hours free childcare policy
The new ‘30 Hours’ free childcare policy launches throughout England in September 2017. It will offer working parents of three and four year olds government funding for nursery and childminder places, resulting in savings of up to £5,000 per year.
In support of the scheme, the Department for Education (DfE) has also announced £2.15m technology funding available to local authorities to implement digital systems that will administer and manage the scheme. It is accepting applications for funding until 31 January 2017 and encouraging councils to submit as soon as possible to maximise the likelihood of success.
Eight local authorities are early implementers, piloting the scheme. One of the key findings of the pilot to date is that regular and transparent communication to parents and early years providers is essential. The pilot has also found that digital solutions are key to meeting tight timescales.
Open Objects has developed its Early Years Provider Hub to provide a secure, digital solution that makes it easier for local authorities to work with childcare providers to implement and manage the 30 hours policy. It brings local childcare providers and council Early Years teams into a single, shared digital space.
The Hub meets all the DfE requirements for IT solutions which can be supported under the Digital Accelerate funding and includes:
- Instant validation of eligibility codes
- Automatic re-checking of codes and notifications of changes for each registered child
- Easy submission of funding claims
- Automatic calculation of payments and integration with the back office
- Full audit trail for Early Years team reporting and claims analysis
Additionally, it extends the provider engagement possibilities to include:
- Easy gathering of annual Census data from providers
- Pupil progress tracking for the Early Years Foundation stage
- Easy flow of all provider-collected data back into the Council