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Seven communities in Swansea chosen for free childcare trial

FAMILIES in seven Swansea communities are set to benefit from 30 hours a week of free early years education and childcare under a pilot programme that could be extended city-wide.

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The Welsh Government plans to offer the provision for three and four-year-olds for 48 weeks of the year, including school holidays, with testing of the offer from September 2017.

Swansea Council is one of six local authorities in Wales to have been asked to run a limited trial of the scheme to iron-out any issues before it is rolled out nationally.

The council is testing different models of provision to see what works well and what is less effective.

Some of the areas suggested have schools that already provide after-school and holiday childcare on site, while others have lower in-school provision but higher levels of external providers.

Provision for both English and Welsh speakers and youngsters with disabilities is also being taken into account.

A suggested list of areas where the pilot could be tested from September this year will now go before Swansea Council's cabinet next Thursday (March 16).

They are Dunvant, Penclawdd, Llangyfelach, West Cross, Morriston, Pontarddulais and Gorseinon.

If the take-up falls short of the target then a reserve list of Gowerton, Penllergaer and Llansamlet has been compiled.

Cllr Christine Richards, Cabinet Member for Services for Children and Young People, said: "It is very exciting that Swansea has been chosen as one of the six pilot areas in Wales as this initiative has the potential to change the lives of many families for the better.

"One of the biggest barriers to work for many parents or carers is the cost or the availability of childcare and this pilot project will help address those issues.

"There is a lot still to be done to ensure we are in a position to start the pilot in September and we will be working closely with key partners including schools and childcare providers from the target areas and beyond during the coming months.

"We will also be engaging with parents and carers to make sure they have an opportunity to receive the full benefits of this flagship programme.

"By testing the offer in the areas identified it will allow us to assist the Welsh Government in discovering what works and what doesn't.

"These pilot programmes will provide experience and evidence to deliver the scheme for all working parents in Swansea and indeed across Wales."

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