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In September 2010, the Department for Education introduced an entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare per week for all 3 and 4 year-olds in England. In 2013, it extended this to include 2 year-olds from disadvantaged families. Free childcare can be taken in playgroups and pre-schools, nursery schools, nursery classes in primary schools, in children’s centres or with childminders.

The Department oversees the delivery of early childcare, much of which contains an educational and developmental purpose. It gives funding to local authorities and sets the overall policy for free childcare which includes the Early Years Foundation Stage- a framework which sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to age five. By providing free childcare, the Department aims to support children’s development, ensure children are ready for school and help parents manage childcare costs and working patterns. It also aims to close the gap between the later educational achievement of disadvantaged children and their peers.

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