Labour pledges to create 100,000 extra nursery places in schools | Politics News

Labour has pledged to create 3,000 new nurseries within existing primary schools as a part of a key manifesto offer to working parents.

The policy, to be funded by ending tax breaks for private schools, will accommodate 100,000 additional childcare places in England and Wales, the party announced on Sunday night.

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It comes amid a chronic shortage of nursery places and rising costs – with British parents facing some of the most expensive fees in the world for childcare.

Labour said it will spend Β£40,000 per school on converting vacant classrooms into nurseries.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “After 14 years of Conservative government, too many children are starting school already behind, and too many parents are being held back from fulfilling their career ambitions.

“This election is about change. Labour will roll up our sleeves and take the tough decisions needed to support parents’ progression, improve kids’ life chances and ultimately, drive growth. We will create the childcare places needed to turn the page, and rebuild Britain.”

The plans were welcomed by the NAHT teaching union which said there is “certainly a clear logic in using free space in primary schools to expand nursery provision”.

But its general secretary Paul Whiteman added: “Having the right space is one part of the picture, and it will be equally important that there is a strong focus on attracting more people into the early years workforce.”

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Labour has already pledged to stick to government plans for a staged expansion of free childcare, with working parents of all two-year-olds able to claim 15 hours a week since April.

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.

However, experts have warned this is a “sticking plaster solution” as understaffed nurseries don’t have the space or staff to deal with the extra demand.

Labour said spare capacity in schools has become available because of declining birth rates, allowing some 3,334 classrooms to be converted.

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The nurseries could be run by the schools themselves or local private or voluntary-sector providers.

Labour said the plan will help deliver both the immediate demand for childcare in under-served areas, and anticipated additional demand from the expansion of free provision.

The party has already tasked Sir David Bell, a former Ofsted inspector, to draw up plans to deliver the expansion as part of a wider review of early years provision.

Its other offerings on childcare include free breakfast clubs in primary schools, to be funded by a crackdown on tax avoidance and closing loopholes in the non-dom tax status.

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UNISON said the expansion of nurseries “could make the world of difference to mums and dads struggling to find affordable childcare”.

​The union’s assistant general secretary Jon Richards said: “As workers in school-run nurseries are on nationally agreed local authority rates, wages tend to be higher than in privately run establishments.

“This should help the new nurseries attract the best staff and keep hold of them too. More parents could then secure places and return to work, boosting the economy. That’s why Labour’s plans make a lot of sense.”

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