Children’s Minister Robert Goodwill has met members of the West Bedlington Early Years Partnership to hear about their experiences of delivering 30 hours of free childcare.
He visited Bedlington West End First School, one of the five providers that launched the partnership, to speak with school and nursery staff involved in the Government’s early delivery scheme.
Mr Goodwill also discussed the success of the initiative with members of the Early Years team at Northumberland County Council.
The council was one of eight local authorities nationally – the Early Implementers – to take part in the pilot scheme.
The national roll-out of the childcare service for children up to the age of four was launched earlier this year.
Mr Goodwill, Children and Families Minister, said: “I have heard excellent things about the delivery of 30 hours in Northumberland, so I am delighted to have seen for myself how it’s working and to speak to providers involved with the West Bedlington Early Years Partnership.
“I commend the way Northumberland has worked closely with providers to address the unique challenges it faces.
“Parents who previously may not have felt able to go back to work or increase their hours are now getting the benefits of 30 hours of free childcare.”
The West Bedlington Early Years Partnership was established with the support of the Early Years team.
It is made up of Bedlington West End First School, West End Preschool, Trinity Preschool, Trinity Out Of School Club and St Bedes RC Voluntary Aided Primary School.
Mr Goodwill’s visit ended with a tour of the first school’s site, which is currently being redeveloped to expand its 30 hour provision thanks to a successful capital bid from the Department for Education (DfE).
Northumberland is also taking the lead in sharing its learning from delivering 30 hours through the DfE’s buddying scheme for councils.
The scheme will partner high-performing councils, including more of the 12 early delivery areas, with those who are still in the early stages of delivering 30 hours.
Coun Wayne Daley, deputy leader of the county council and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This fantastic scheme allows us to make sure we give children the best start in life and support parents to work.
“The visit was a great opportunity for the minister to see an example of how this scheme is implemented and discuss its benefits and challenges.”