As part of the Covid recovery strategy, we have invested £17 million in the delivery of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme, improving the language skills of reception-age children who need it most—language skills are so important. Of course, it will not be possible to put that in place unless we have the workforce to do it. The department is committed to supporting the sector to develop a workforce with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to deliver high-quality early education and childcare. We are investing £20 million in a high-quality, evidence-based professional development programme for practitioners to target disadvantaged areas and a further £10 million in funding a second phase of the programme, which will be announced shortly.
My Lords, children in deprived areas benefit most from early years education and childcare. Problems can be identified and appropriate interventions arranged. They are better prepared for school and learn valuable social and cultural skills. Big nursery chains are expanding when they can charge fees. Poorer children’s needs are often met by smaller, stand-alone nurseries that cannot survive without adequate local authority funding. The projected increase next April will not be enough to cover the increases in costs of the minimum wage, national insurance, energy, pensions, resumption of business rates and so on.
Of course it is very important that the independent nursery schools carry on. We are investing additional funding for the early years entitlement worth £160 million in 2022-23. This is for local authorities to increase the hourly rates paid to childcare providers for the Government’s free childcare entitlement offers and reflects cost pressures as well as anticipated changes in the number of eligible children. The Government have confirmed the continuation of the maintained nursery schools supplementary funding throughout the SR period, providing the sector with long-term certainty. For 2022-23, we will increase the MNS supplementary hourly funding rate by 3.5%.