The last few decades have seen a seismic increase in the number of women going out to work, with 14.4m women employed today. Two-thirds of these are mothers and with both parents working, good quality childcare is more in demand than ever before.
The childcare sector has more than risen to this challenge – there are now 65,000 Ofsted-registered providers – and it will continue to grow. I want to make it as easy as possible for childcare businesses to do so.
Coming from an entrepreneurial background, I know how vital it is for a business to be able to grow. Since my appointment as childcare minister this summer I have been keen to promote ways to help childcare businesses to prosper. One step is a change in the law which is why I’m so pleased to see the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Bill moving successfully through parliament.
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The bill will open up doors and opportunities for small businesses everywhere and help with our continued economic recovery, by cutting red tape. It will remove the previous barriers which prevented the natural expansion of successful nurseries.
It will allow childcare providers to expand or open new sites. It will remove the somewhat ridiculous duplication of the information for separate premises on separate registers – a process currently repeated each time a business attempts expansion.
Providers will still need to tell Ofsted or their childminder agency and receive their approval before they can open additional sites. But time-sapping, permanent information about the applicant that does not change will no longer have to be submitted time and time again.
It’s not just nurseries and after-school clubs that will benefit. Registered childminders are a small business themselves. At the moment, rules state they can only operate from domestic premises – in other words, from their own home. I want to remove this unnecessary barrier and, if they want to, give them flexibility to expand beyond the confines of where they pay their mortgage.
We know that the early years really count. It not only sets a child off on the right foot at school but has effects that last right into the workplace. Before they have even worn their school uniform for the first time, a child’s life chances are being decided. We’re not talking about learning quadratic equations before you can tie your own shoe-laces – it’s about age-appropriate learning through play.
Getting that vital pre-primary education is why childcare businesses are so important to us – and why we are so excited to be bringing these changes to help them to prosper, succeed and expand.
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