Please refer to the glossary for the definition and cultural use of specific terms)

I. The National Childcare Strategy

The New Labour Government launched the National Childcare Strategy Green Paper: ‘Meeting the Childcare Challenge' in May 1998 following its 1997 election platform. The day after the 1997 election (May 2,1997), the Secretary of State of Education abolished the Nursery Education Voucher scheme and set out the new early years policy. Local Education Authorities and other early years services convened local forums to represent early years needs and interests and to prepare local development plans. On October 31, 1997, the Department for Education and Employment set up a guidance document for Early Years Development Partnerships and Plans. It proposed that plans for establishing and developing early years and childcare services should be drawn up and implemented at local level by Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCP). The plans for 1998 –99 had to be submitted by February 1998 to come into effect in April, 1998. The plans with an audit of constituency and unmet needs are submitted to the Secretary of State for Education and approved each year. Over 150 Partnerships in England are now in operation.

The National Childcare Strategy is a complex initiative for the development, expansion, implementation and sustainability of early years and childcare services in Britain. The National Childcare Strategy sets targets for the development and support of high quality, sustainable childcare for 0-14 year olds (and older where feasible) in every community. Within 5 years of its inception, the National Childcare Strategy attempts to establish high quality, affordable childcare in every community. The national strategy is run locally, but led and coordinated by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). The responsibility for all early childcare and education is the responsibility of the DfEE as of March, 1998.

The expansion of childcare places for up to 865,000 3-14 year olds is being funded over the next 5 years by the New Opportunities Fund . The Sure Start Programme is coordinating health, education and childcare to provide the best start to the very young (0-3 years). Funding of training and education is through the TECS (Training and Enterprise Councils, which are to be replaced by the Learning and Skills Council) with the support of the local Partnerships.

The central pin of the National Childcare Strategy is the establishment of the EYDCPs, which are composed of the key local groups in the early years and childcare, eg. Local government authorities, TECS, employers, parents, providers including out-of-school clubs, schools, churches. The EYDCPs or Partnerships are the mechanism for the expansion of childcare places, the development and coordination of the National Childcare Strategy and the support structure for high quality provision. Annually the Partnerships must submit for DfEE approval an audit of the status of their local area and a plan for the next year. For the 2000-2001 year, 146 EYDCPs received approval. The DfEE are considering that after next year's submission that they may possibly give 3 year approval with regular up-dates.

The National Childcare Strategy requires any new childcare provision to be considered in relation to many factors:
(Good Practice for EYDC Partnerships: Developing and supporting high quality, sustainable childcare, DfEE, 1999)

  • diversity: voluntary, private, and public sector involvement;
  • accessibility to rural and disadvantaged families;
  • inclusion of special needs and disabled children where possible and appropriate;
  • equal opportunities for different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds;
  • quality, stimulating care with staff who aim to continuously improve their services;
  • affordability;
  • accessibility to where the children live and the parents work;
  • integration of early years education with childcare;
  • access to accurate local information for parents, carers, children, employers, and providers.