Labour pledges to create 100,000 extra childcare places in schools

Sir Keir Starmer said the shortage of childcare places meant children were being left behind and parents were unable to build careers.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has set out plans to create 3,300 school-based nurseries
Labour leader Keir Starmer has set out plans to create 3,300 school-based nurseries (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Labour has set out plans to turn primary school classrooms into 3,300 new nurseries to create an extra 100,000 childcare places.

Sir Keir Starmer said a shortage of childcare meant parents were being held back in their careers and children were “starting school already behind”.

Under Labour’s plan, empty or under-used classrooms in England’s primary schools could be converted to nurseries.

The spare capacity in schools has been caused by declining birth rates and under the plan some 3,334 classrooms would be converted at an average cost of £40,000.

The nurseries could be run by the schools themselves or local private or voluntary-sector providers.

Funding for the scheme would come from imposing VAT on private schools.

Labour said it would target its new school nursery places at areas of highest need, where parents are struggling to find childcare.

Sir Keir said: “Childcare is critical infrastructure.

“It’s vital for children’s opportunities, and essential for a stable economy.

“After 14 years of Conservative government, too many children are starting school already behind, and too many parents are being held back from fulfilling their career ambitions.

“This election is about change.

“Labour will roll up our sleeves and take the tough decisions needed to support parents’ progression, improve kids’ life chances and ultimately, drive growth.

“We will create the childcare places needed to turn the page, and rebuild Britain.”

Sarah Ronan, director of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, said: “Labour’s commitment to increasing the number of places is the right one, however if you boost places you have to also boost staff numbers, so underpinning its plan for reform must be a new workforce strategy that will attract more people into the sector and see early years professionals receive the pay, conditions and respect they deserve.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “There is certainly a clear logic in using free space in primary schools to expand nursery provision.

“It is positive to see that Labour have made clear that schools that wish to do this will be able to access the necessary funding.

“Having the right space is one part of the picture, and it will be equally important that there is a strong focus on attracting more people into the early years workforce.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ associate director Christine Farquharson said: “By far the biggest choice Labour has made on childcare was the decision to sign up to the hugely ambitious expansion of funded childcare entitlements that the current Government has introduced.

“By contrast, the plans announced today to pay for the conversion of 3,300 primary school classrooms (going spare because of falling pupil numbers) may nudge the market in a different direction – but certainly won’t transform it.

“Targeting provision at childcare ‘deserts’ could help to expand access to childcare in under-served areas – but a sensible plan would take into account the likely local demand for childcare, not just the (lack of) supply.”