Labour has signalled it will back a major expansion of state-funded childcare, saying the Government scheme had “simply failed to deliver” for families.
HuffPost UK understands Jeremy Corbyn will set out details of the party’s new policy at the party’s conference in Liverpool.
It comes amid speculation that the party is ready to table a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Theresa May and that a snap general election could be on the horizon.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner used her speech to delegates to reveal a Corbyn-led government would scrap free schools, curb schools’ converting to academies and introduce a national supply teacher agency.
And, in a sign that the party could also be planning a shake-up of childcare, she said her early years team was spearheading work on a “radical” pre-school education and childcare plan.
She later added: “Ministers promised working parents 30 hours of free childcare a week but they have quite simply failed to deliver, and the very families that need it the most are the people missing out.
“Working parents are quite literally paying the price of government under-funding, either facing higher fees or paying for extras, while providers are being pushed further into the red in the face of a government scheme that doesn’t give them the funding they need.”
The party argues the Government scheme, which offers 30 hours of ‘free’ childcare set at a standard rate, was not reaching the least well-off.
Research by Labour says one in seven families were spending more on childcare after accessing the 30-hours, while half were being charged more by cash-strapped providers on extras such as meals and trips.
And according to parents and nurseries who responded to the Department for Education’s own research, barely a quarter of families earning under £20,000 were using their entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare, compared to 58% of families earning over £45,000.
It came as Stourbridge CLP delegate Carolanne Lello made an impassioned speech during the party’s education debate about “Tessa Jowell’s amazing legacy” of Sure Start centres, referring to the late Labour minister who championed the initiative.
“They pulled me out and gave me a route to a future, from an extremely abusive relationship in which I nearly died more than once,” the young mother revealed.
“And because of that I am stood here - a survivor and not a victim.”
She also called for a nationalised childcare system, saying: “There is one thing missing from the conversation on in-work poverty, and one thing missing from the amazing list of things to be publicly-owned, and that is childcare and early years services.
“These are not soft topics for the womenfolk to sort out.”
She added: “There are families up and down the UK who spend no time together because one parent is forced to work nights and one days to avoid extortionate childcare fees.”
In her speech, Rayner, who is viewed as a potential successor to Corbyn, also said the cost of agency fees for supply teachers has risen by around 20% in the past five years and that her party would back a state-funded agency to cut costs for schools.
She said: “At a time when our schools have to ask parents to give extra money for books and classroom essentials, it’s crazy we’re spending half a billion pounds a year just on agency fees. That money should be spent on teachers and the badly needed resources our children need to get a world class education, and under a Labour government it would.”