10 July 2017

A father-of-four from Burngreave says his family has benefitted enormously from sending his children to pre-school – and he is now encouraging others to register for 30 free hours of childcare before the deadline on 31 August 2017.

Parents of three and four year olds, and disadvantaged two year olds, currently have access to 15 hours free childcare per week but the Government will soon double this allowance for some three and four year olds.

From September 2017, if parents work at least 16 hours a week, they could get up to 30 hours free childcare per week. To access the additional hours – for the term beginning this September – they must apply before the end of August. Parents can still apply after this deadline, however, if their children will start at a later date.

The scheme aims to support children’s development, ensure children are ready for school and help parents manage childcare costs and working patterns.

It is thanks to this free childcare that Nazakat Khan’s children have been able to benefit from the “amazing support” at a pre-school in Burngreave.

“I first heard about the free childcare scheme through family friends and thought it sounded like a good idea. I am now so glad I took up the opportunity.

“As parents of a daughter with additional needs, the free childcare gave my wife and me a much-needed break. But, most importantly, it really brought my daughter Haleema out of her shell and enabled her to interact with other kids her age during the two years she was there.

“As well as fundamental support with her mobility, speech and physiotherapy, and preparing her for school, it was other little things like supporting her to eat with the other children rather than in a special chair which made her feel so welcome and really part of the group. I would encourage any parent who has children with additional needs to consider sending them to pre-school.

“It was because of this amazing support that when my youngest daughter, Anaya, turned two we started sending her to pre-school for 15 hours a week. This meant my wife and I had more time to spend with our baby son, Ayaan, who will also go when he’s two.

“You don’t get much free time when you have four children but this has enabled us to spend real quality time with each other and our kids.”

The free childcare can be taken in playgroups and pre-schools, nursery schools, nursery classes in primary schools, or with childminders.

Nazakat noticed the difference pre-school made to his children almost immediately.

“Attending pre-school has built up Anaya’s confidence and her development has improved hugely. Before she didn’t use full sentences but now she uses bigger words and she knows all the nursery rhymes.

“I’ve made a friendship with the pre-school and I trust them 100 per cent with my children. When I drop Anaya off it feels like I’m leaving her with members of my family; I know she’s going to be completely safe and have a wonderful time.

“I have encouraged all my family and friends to send their children to pre-school because the benefits are just amazing.

“Having seen the difference it has made to my children, even if there weren’t free childcare places I would pay for them to attend pre-school. It would be a struggle but it’s my duty as a parent to give my kids the very best chance in life so I would find a way to afford it somehow. That’s how much I value it.”

Research by the Department for Education shows that good quality early education has lasting positive effects on children by helping their speech and language development; literacy and numeracy; social development; and readiness for school.

They also show that the effect of attending any pre-school is the equivalent to achieving seven higher grades at GCSE and it is especially beneficial for the most disadvantaged children and those with low-qualified parents.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Nazakat and his family are a prime example of how free childcare can benefit the whole family.

“Not only does it help children’s development, but it also gives parents more time for themselves, reducing stress and enabling them to work or work more hours.

“Sheffield has many fantastic childcare places and we are encouraging anyone who may be eligible to give their child the best start in life by registering before 31 August.”

To check eligibility and to apply for 30 hours free childcare, please visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/30-hours-free-childcare-eligibility.