Dorset will be one of four new council areas to take up the government’s 30 hours free childcare offer early, before it rolls out nationally in September.
Dorset County Council – alongside Leicestershire, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets – will join the eight original councils that launched the offer last September.
The county council will work with nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in Dorset (not including Bournemouth and Poole) to start offering the 30 hours of free childcare places per week to all eligible three- and four-year-olds from April, doubling the existing 15 hours entitlement currently available for parents.
The government says the 30 hours offer could save working parents around £5,000 a year on the cost of childcare, helping them get back to work or increase their hours if they want to.
Cllr Deborah Croney, Dorset County Council Cabinet member for learning, skills and children’s safeguarding, said:
“We are delighted that as a rural county we are able to participate as one of four additional councils to join the programme. We are looking forward to working with our early years settings throughout Dorset to begin offering the 30 hours of free childcare places per week to all eligible three- and four-year-olds from April.
“We think this increase in the offer of free childcare will help parents in rural areas greatly and we look forward to our collaborative work with the Department for Education and other councils participating in the early stages of the programme.”