Thousands of families across East Sussex have taken up the government-funded offer of 15 hours free early education and childcare for two, three and four-year-olds saving themselves at least £2,000 a year. Some children, however, may still be missing out.
Most experts agree that early education is good for the under 5s, helping them to succeed when they start school and throughout life. A young child’s brain develops rapidly and activities such as songs, reading stories aloud and playing alongside others makes a major difference in the development of social, physical and language skills.
Time to work or train
As well as helping parents to give their child the best start, free early education also means mums and dads could use the time to work or train. Once a child has a place, they remain entitled to it even if circumstances change.
Available to all families of three and four-year-olds, the free early education offer amounts to £2,200 per child each year. Families can then make further savings via a special government scheme operated through employers, which allows for childcare to be paid for from pre-tax salary.
Self-employed can apply too
For eligible families on low income, the offer also includes 15 hours of free care for two-year-olds. In addition to the £2,200 per child, families on low income can also receive up to 70 per cent of the cost of extra hours of childcare in working tax credit – that’s a maximum of £8,670 a year toward childcare costs.
For the first time this autumn, self-employed parents will be able to receive tax credits towards childcare costs. Importantly, applying for the free early education offer is easy, for three and four-year-olds just go to your childcare provider. Parents of two-year-olds can find out more online at eastsussex.gov.uk/earlyyears or call on 0345 60 80 192.
What do parents think?
Meet Sean, Anne Marie and Summer Finlay
Sean and Anne Marie Finlay were anxious when two-year-old Summer started at Maplehurst Nursery, Hastings, last September.
Sean said: “We were anxious because Summer suffers from Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. We chose Maplehurst Nursery because they immediately filled us with confidence and answered all our questions. Since then we’ve seen her social skills improve and there’s been a big boost in her self-confidence. It’s been really good to see her making great progress and looking so happy.”
Joanne Parks and three-year-old Daniel
Following a move from Surrey, Joanne Parks discovered her local Children’s Centre in Hailsham.
She said: “He was quite hard to settle at first because he was so used to having me around, but the girls at the nursery were fantastic. Daniel’s keyworker had worked in the creche too, so she’s been with him since the start. He’s such a confident little boy now. He loves painting, drawing, playing in the nursery garden and just being with his friends. He’s really bloomed.”