Early years and family support

Early years and childcare

Find out how we are supporting quality early years education and childcare for families.

Early years and childcare in London

Every child in London should have the best possible chance for happiness and success, making the most of our city’s great opportunities. Communication and language, physical, personal, social and emotional development are key. All can help children to thrive. We know that the earlier a child starts to learn the better they tend to do in school and later in life, which is why early years education is so important.

It is often the children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are missing out on this vital early years education. By the age of five, children eligible for free school meals are almost three months behind their more affluent peers. In 2017, 84 per cent of 3 and 4-year-olds in London took advantage of their free part-time place, compared to 95 per cent nationally.  In addition, only 58 per cent of disadvantaged 2 year-olds in London accessed their free part-time place, compared to 71 per cent nationally.

The Mayor is working with stakeholders to increase the take-up and quality of early years education in London, especially among disadvantaged groups. This includes tackling the cost of childcare, identifying more space for childcare provision, and helping to improve the skills of those working in the sector. We hope this will remove childcare as a barrier to work for parents.

More details about early years and childcare in London are in our 2017 Education Annual Report.

Early Years Hubs

The Mayor has launched three Early Years Hubs, which aim to improve access to high-quality early education for the most disadvantaged families. The Hubs will be set up in January 2018 in:

  • Newham
  • Wandsworth and Merton
  • Barnet

The Early Years Hubs will provide the opportunity for schools, childminders, Private Voluntary and Independent (PVI) nurseries, and others, to work together over a three-year period.


Contact [email protected] for more information.

Free Childcare and Place Shortages

There is huge pressure on good childcare places in London. Over the last few years the amount of childcare available in London has increased. But this is still not enough to meet demand. London parents are less likely to have support available from grandparents and pay more for childcare, with costs in Inner London of 34 per cent higher than the average in England.

All three-and four-year-olds in England are entitled to funded early education, for 570 hours per year (commonly taken as 15 hours per week, for 38 weeks of the year). In September 2017, the government increased the entitlement to 30 hours a week for three and four year olds for working parents. You can find out more about this and other government childcare benefits here

Childcare place shortages and running costs mean this offer will be difficult to roll-out in London so new ways of delivering high quality services are being explored. The Department for Education undertook pilots in 2016 to explore effective models of partnership working across the country and a toolkit was produced based on the findings. Below you can read a (GLA commissioned) report from the Family and Childcare Trust which explores the possible benefits of mixed model approaches to childcare in London. These models involve partnership working between group and home-based childcare providers.

Childcare Sufficiency Assessment Template for London boroughs

We have worked closely with London boroughs to produce a common template for their Childcare Sufficiency Assessments. We hope this will enable boroughs to effectively intervene in their local markets, provide a more accurate picture of London's childcare provision and help families find the childcare that's right for them.

To support the completion of Childcare Sufficiency Assessments, we will update the London Datastore to include published early years data at a borough level, including - early years providers and places, take up of the free early entitlement and providers' OFSTED ratings. This information will be available soon.

You can find the template Childcare Sufficiency Assessment and guidance at the bottom of the page.

Contact [email protected] for more information.

Childcare Deposit Loan Scheme

In January 2017, following a proposal from Gingerbread, the Mayor launched an interest-free loan scheme to give all parents in the GLA group the funds they need to cover the up-front costs of childcare provision. We’re urging businesses and organisations across London to follow suit and offer the same scheme to their employees to support parents to return to the workforce. Further details can be found here.

Healthy Early Years London (HEYL)

Building on the success of Healthy Schools London, Healthy Early Years London is an awards scheme funded by the Mayor that supports and recognises early years setting achievements in child health, wellbeing and school readiness. Healthy Early Years London focuses on the whole child and gives settings a framework for their activity with children, parents, carers and staff and the wider community. The HEYL Pilot took place in 6 London boroughs in 2017 - Croydon, Havering, Hounslow, Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets. This pilot is now complete and is being assessed to embed the learnings from it into the new programme, which is due to be rolled out in Spring 2018 to all of London’s boroughs and registered childcare settings.



The benefits of accessible, good quality childcare are clear all round – parents will be able to return to work, children will have more access to quality early years education, and employers will be able to reap the benefits of having skilled and eager parents back in the workplace. 

                   Sadiq Khan - Mayor of London