Labour will open a Sure Start centre in every community with 1,000 new centres across England as part of a radical expansion of childcare provision, Jeremy Corbyn is set to announce on Saturday.
Visiting an early years art project in Leeds with education spokesperson Angela Rayner, the Labour leader is expected to promise £1bn investment to reverse the Tory cuts to Sure Start and provide support to parents in every community across the country.
The announcement comes after new analysis that shows childcare costs have risen twice as fast as wages under the Conservatives. Labour has set out its plan, which is intended to unlock the potential of children in the UK. The plan includes:
- Rolling out 30 hours of free childcare a week for 2-4 year olds;
- Opening 1,000 new Sure Start centres;
- Providing free school meals for all primary school children;
- Building a million genuinely affordable homes, including the biggest council housing programme in a generation;
- Investing in schools and fully reversing the Tory cuts;
- Ending the public sector pay cap and introducing a real Living Wage of £10 to boost the household income;
- Ending the benefit freeze, two child limit and scrapping universal credit.
Commenting on the new policy, Corbyn said: “The Conservatives are failing a whole generation of children. Labour will deliver the real change Britain needs. Parents are struggling to afford the childcare support they need, while many children are going hungry and growing up homeless.”
House of Commons analysis shows that Labour’s expansion of 30 hours of free childcare would benefit over 880,000 three- and four-year-olds, and over 500,000 two-year-olds by the end of the next parliament.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commented: “Investment in the early years can transform the lives of children and their families across this country, just as the last Labour government transformed mine.
“The Tories have slashed funding for Sure Start leading to a loss of 1,000 centres, while their so-called free childcare offer locks out those families most in need of support. Labour will make high-quality early years education and access to Sure Start Plus a right for all families, in a country for the many, not the few.”
Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, 1,000 Sure Start Centres have been closed despite evidence that early years education for children below the age of four has a positive impact on life chances.
Research from the Sutton Trust shows that the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their counterparts is already evident by the time they start school, with a gap between them equivalent to 4.3 months – which more than doubles to 9.5 months at the end of primary school, and rises to 19.3 months at the end of secondary school.
Currently, children from disadvantaged backgrounds spend significantly less time in pre-school settings than children from more affluent backgrounds.