A GOVERNMENT minister visited a nursery at Salisbury Hospital earlier this month. 

David Jonston MP, minister for children and families, visited Tops Day Nurseries to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and discuss the roll out of the new expanded free childcare offer to parents. Alan Mak MP, also joined for this visit and celebration.

Trainer Katie Mann from Aspire Training Team, a specialist early years training provider, along with four of her dedicated apprentices, showcased to David and Alan what being an early years apprentice entails, discussing their roles and setting up activities for everyone to take part in.

David also took part in presenting the National Apprenticeship gifts the Aspire Training Team had prepared.

Salisbury Journal: David Jonston, MP and minister for children and families and Alan Mak MP visited Tops Day Nurseries

The visit also focussed on the new government funding available starting from April 2024 which is expanding the existing funding available to parents in phases.

By September 2025, most working families with children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare support and David was keen to hear, from Harriet Pacey, a director for Tops Day Nurseries and Aspire Training Team, how the planned roll out of this funding was being implemented by providers like Tops Day Nurseries.

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The changes are being introduced gradually to make sure that providers can meet the needs of more families.

Harriet and Mr Johnston discussed the impact the funding would have on the size of the workforce and that a recruitment and retention strategy that recognises the importance of the early years sector and attract people to join and stay is crucial.

Salisbury Journal: David Jonston, MP and minister for children and families and Alan Mak MP visited Tops Day Nurseries

From April 2024, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of childcare support.

From September 2024, 15 hours of childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of nine months to three-year-olds. From September 2025, eligible working parents with a child from nine months old up to school age will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week.

Mr Johnston said: “Apprenticeships are a vital part of our drive to get more people into early years careers who will help deliver our largest ever government investment in childcare, creating a new route for staff to learn on the job and get paid right away.”

Speaking after the official opening event, Cheryl Hadland, founder and chair of Tops Day Nurseries, said: “Making childcare more affordable for parents, paying early years staff more and focussing on a workforce strategy can only be good for everyone.

"In the long term, these investments in early childhood education yield significant benefits, as children who receive a strong start in their formative years are more likely to flourish academically, socially, and emotionally, setting them up for success later in life.”