Minister for Children and Families, David Jonston visited Tops Day Nurseries to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and discuss the new funding

Minister for Children and Families, David Jonston visited Tops Day Nurseries to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and discuss the roll out of the new expanded free childcare offer to parents.
On 8th February, David Jonston, MP and Minister for Children and Families, visited Tops Day Nurseries, a day nursery chain with 12 nurseries in Dorset, to discuss all things apprenticeships with colleagues at Tops along with trainers / apprentices trained by Aspire Training Team as part of their focus on National Apprenticeship Week. Alan Mak, MP, also joined for this visit and celebration.
Katie Mann, a trainer from Aspire Training Team, a specialist Early Years training provider, along with 4 of her dedicated apprentices, did a fantastic job of showcasing to David and Alan just what being an Early Years apprentice is all about, discussing their roles and setting up activities for everyone to take part in. David also took part in presenting their National Apprenticeship gifts to them that Aspire Training Team had prepared.
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 5 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.
The changes are being introduced gradually to make sure that providers can meet the needs of more families. Harriet and David 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.
From April 2024, eligible working parents of 2-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours childcare support. From September 2024, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of 9 months to 3-year-olds. From September 2025, eligible working parents with a child from 9 months old up to school age will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week.
David Johnston, Minister for Children and Families said: “It was great to meet Maddie, Emily, Misty-Marie and Jack to learn about their experience as apprentices, discuss what’s next for them in their childcare careers and see up close the impact they’re having on our youngest children. 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. This is on top of our national recruitment campaign which launched this week alongside a trial of £1,000 cash sign-on bonuses, to give nurseries and early years providers the workers they need and offer more childcare places for parents.”
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, even short term, more parents, and grandparents could return to work thus paying more tax/receiving fewer benefits and taking pressure off employers with vacancies. 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. So, prioritising affordability, fair wages, and workforce development in the childcare sector is not just beneficial in the short term but also lays the foundation for a healthier, more prosperous society in the years to come. Apprenticeships play a vital role in this equation, offering individuals valuable opportunities to gain skills and qualifications while contributing meaningfully to childcare provision. Ultimately, prioritising affordability, fair wages, and workforce development not only benefits individuals and families in the present but also lays the foundation for a healthier, more prosperous society in the years to come.
Tops Day Nurseries provides eco-sustainable Early Education and Care for children aged 3 months to school age. They have over 30-day nurseries across the South and Southwest, with 12 nurseries across Dorset including Tops Poole, Tops Christchurch, Tops Bournemouth, Tops Pokesdown, Tops Corfe Mullen, Tops Wimborne, Tops Charminster, Tops Bearwood, Tops Gillingham, Topsie Gillingham, Tops Parkstone and Tops Wareham. Tops also offer before, after-school and Hi5 holiday clubs for children up to the age of 11. They have also recently launched a Hi5’s Forest School, a way for children to have fun and learn whilst being outside.

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