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Longer School Day Could Cut Childcare Costs

(c) Sky News 2012

Schools could stay open until 8pm under plans being considered to help working parents cope with childcare costs.

The Government is launching a commission on childcare which will look at how to bring down the cost to parents and increase the supply of places.

Childcare is now one of the top cost-of-living burdens on families. A recent Daycare Trust report suggested part-time care for an under-two now costs more than £5,000 a year - with prices up to three times that level in London.

With the rising childcare costs outstripping wage increases, some parents may be forced out of work, the Trust warned.

The new commission, led by education minister Sarah Teather and work and pensions minister Maria Miller, will look at ways of driving down costs by reducing the burden of red-tape on providers.

It will also explore schemes to provide "wrap-around care" for over-fives at the beginning and end of the school day and during the holidays.

Schemes already being tried in the UK include the Free School Norwich, which offers on-site childcare six days per week, 51 weeks of the year; or the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney which operates a longer schoolday, with some children remaining on site until 8pm.

Prime Minister David Cameron says: "Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable.

"We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children."

Mr Cameron wants the commission to look at international examples to see what the UK can learn from different models of childcare support.