Bridget Phillipson vows to make reasonably priced childcare accessible for all dad and mom

Labour will put a pledge to make affordable childcare available for all parents at the centre of its election manifesto.

Shadow Education Bridget Phillipson said fixing the broken system will be her “number one priority” if the party wins power.

In an interview with the Mirror, she told how early years education “is where you make the single biggest difference to children’s life chances even before they arrive at school”. “It’s how we will make sure that all children, no matter what their background, have every chance to thrive,” she added.

The 40-year-old, who grew up in a council house near Sunderland and received free school meals, vowed that Labour would transform education as it did under Tony Blair when she was a teenager.

“I’m determined that we’ll put education front and centre of national life once more,” she said. “That’s what I experienced under the last Labour government – the value of education, the impact that had on my life. And I’m determined that as Education Secretary in a Labour government we will do that once more and we’ll renew education, education, education for the next generation of children.”

Bridget Phillipson says Labour will make childcare affordable for parents

Bridget Phillipson says Labour will make childcare affordable for parents
Daily Mirror..)

With the election now less than six weeks ago, Ms Phillipson insisted the stakes could not be higher. “This is a big defining moment for our country where the choice that people make on July 4 will be enormous,” she said.

Labour is preparing to unveil its plans for how it will create thousands of extra nursery places across the country. Ms Phillipson said: “We will deliver an expanded childcare offer for families. We will make sure that the places are there. This is a big personal priority for me. I know it’s a big challenge at the moment for parents, but also as a country we are letting down too many children.

Quick fire questions

Favourite subject? “History.”

Least favourite subject? “Chemistry”.

After school club? “Hockey. I captained the hockey team.”

Favourite school dinner dessert? “Sponge and custard.”

Ever get detention? “No.”

“The system is so broken. I think parents know it will take time to fix it. But if we win the election, we will get to work on the first day to start that process of change. I want to make childcare more available, more accessible for parents, and I want to ensure that all children have access to really high quality early years education. We are a long, long way away from that at the moment.”

She added: “At the moment under the Tories there is such a big gap between children from more affluent backgrounds and children from less affluent backgrounds. They arrive at school having already slipped behind. I’m determined to make progress on that.”

Bridget Phillipson grew up in Washington, near Sunderland

Bridget Phillipson grew up in Washington, near Sunderland
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)

Labour tasked former Ofsted head Sir David Bell with finding new ways to increase levels of childcare in England. One of the ideas that has been looked at is creating nursery places inside existing primary schools. Ms Phillipson said that with fewer children starting school leaving some classrooms empty, she would “think imaginatively about how we use that space”.

The Tories have pledged to extend its childcare scheme in England so working parents of kids aged between nine months and three-years-old get 15 hours of free support a week from this September. Ministers have said this will be increased again in September 2025 so working parents get 30 hours of free childcare right from when children are nine months to when they start school.

But watchdogs have warned it will be difficult to recruit early years workers to provide enough places and raised concerns about the quality of provision. The National Audit Office last month warned the changes could widen the attainment gap between children from more affluent families and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Ms Phillipson said: “What parents are now discovering is that the places that they’ve been promised just aren’t there. The policy is unravelling. It was always a pledge without a plan to make it happen. Everything that we set out during the election – including around childcare – we’ll have a plan behind it, both in terms of how we’re going to pay for it and how we’re going to deliver it.”