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LunchTime4Children’s ‘Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs’ are bringing together provisions in a local area to improve quality and develop a financially sustainable model for a more flexible and responsive childcare offer – blended childcare. 

4Children’s ‘Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs’ was originally funded by the DfE in 2013 as a two year programme with an additional funding in 2015 to produce the SEN and Disability in the Early Years Toolkit with the Council for Disabled children. It received additional funding in 2015-16 to test different ways of extending the programme.

Each Hub is a Good or Outstanding school, children’s centre or PVI setting that works with at least eight settings including childminders to develop an action plan that:

  • improves the quality of provision;
  • supports the provision of new childcare places focussing on funded two year olds where this is seen as a gap; and
  • supports parents with their working patterns by offering blended childcare and early education

In the first two years the project helped to develop 16 Community Hubs, while in 2015-16 the project supported a further 21 Community Hubs. The hubs are located in:

  • York
  • Cambridge
  • Newham
  • Surrey
  • North Yorkshire
  • Croydon
  • South Shields
  • Birmingham
  • Norfolk
  • Telford
  • Devon
  • Northumberland
  • Bradford
  • Hertfordshire
  • Hull
  • Merseyside
  • Oldham
  • Nottingham
  • Leeds
  • Hammersmith & Fulham











Most of the hubs over the three years have engaged with a variety of early years settings in their areas to tackle the goals of the programme. City of York, for example, have created an information widget which brings together all the information about the early years settings into one easy to use website, helping families to easily see the availability and links between the settings. The Hill and Woodside Hub in Waltham Forest is transforming the way transitions are handled by the local settings and schools. Allerton Church of England Primary School, Leeds has become the lead provider of two-year-old places in the city. Much more good practice is captured in case studies from the first two year provided below. A further 15 will be published from this year’s work drawn from a variety of Hubs.

Video Case Study

Hubs Toolkit

Background Information

Childcare Hubs are a solution to the limited availability of high quality and flexibility of childcare and early education that many parents face.They consist of a variety of early years settings all working together in a local area to achieve three goals – improving quality, offering blended childcare to parents and supporting the provision of new childcare places as required.

Benefits of becoming a hub

The Hubs bring together different kinds of childcare for children 0 – 11 in one local area to offer a blended range of options for parents that are flexible, co-ordinated and high quality in a ‘community childcare and early learning hub’. They offer a one stop shop of information for parents to find out about and access childcare that meets their requirements.

Journey to becoming a hub

The experience of existing Hubs indicates the most successful way of recruiting providers was with a proactive, personal approach i.e. visiting providers individually to create relationships before asking them attend a group meeting.

Hubs Case Studies

DragonFishers Case Study

The DragonFishers Hub is a partnership of four childcare providers in York city. The Hub comprises three early years settings: at St Georges RC Primary School, Fishergate Primary School and Ducklings Nursery, along with FunFishers – a breakfast, day and afterschool provider attached to Fishergate Primary School.

Sheringham Case Study

The Hub is based within Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Newham and reaches out to a growing network of providers which currently includes 7 early years’ settings, 7 local primary schools and a network of more than 20 childminders.

Wooler Case Study

Wooler is located in rural Northumberland. The Hub’s catchment area encompasses a 10 mile radius of Wooler and members include primary schools, a children’s centre, a playgroup and two childminders. Prior to the set-up of the Hub, many of the existing providers were part of the Local Authority’s Early Years Network.

Case Studies

Blended Childcare

Every Early Learning and Community Childcare Hub must support parents with their working patterns by offering blended childcare and early education. 4Children surveyed 11 Hubs to find out how they are achieving this goal.


All Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs must support parents with their working patterns by offering blended childcare and early education. Engaging childminders is a crucial part of achieving this goal. Parents of younger children often prefer the caring home environment offered by childminders, who can also provide before- and after-school care for older children. Childminders can also deliver the free childcare entitlement, sometimes in partnership with other settings.

Data Sharing

Sharing and making effective use of data to improve outcomes for children is a crucial factor in achieving one of the three key goals of an Early Learning and Community Childcare Hub: improving the quality of provision.

Funded 2-year-olds

Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs aim to support the provision of new childcare places, with a particular focus on finding places for disadvantaged two-year-olds who are eligible for government-funded early education. Research has demonstrated that children from disadvantaged backgrounds need access to good quality early years provision, which can reduce behavioural problems and increase language skills among disadvantaged toddlers.


All Early Learning and Community Childcare Hub have three goals: to improve the quality of provision; support the provision of new childcare places, focusing on funded two-year olds where this is seen as a gap; and support parents with their working patterns by offering blended childcare and early education. Strong leadership, practical support and a clear vision are vital to the development of Hubs.

Partnership Working

In order to achieve their three main goals, Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs must form partnerships with at least eight early years providers.

Supporting PVIs

PVI settings play a vital role in delivering the three main goals of every Early Learning and Community Childcare Hub. These are: improving the quality of provision; supporting the provision of new childcare places; and supporting parents with their working patterns through blended childcare and early education.

Teaching Schools

National Teaching Schools are outstanding-rated schools that work with others to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. Teaching schools must provide evidence of successful partnership working, and Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs can be a good way to connect them to other providers, particularly in the PVI sector. As lead partners, Teaching Schools also have a lot to offer Hub members.


A focus on the transition of children from home to an early years setting, or from the setting to a reception class, can help a Hub meet the key goal of improving the quality of provision. Supporting children through the transition helps to identify and tackle school readiness issues, as well as working to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

Web-Based Support

One of the goals of Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs is to support parents with their working patterns by offering blended childcare and early education, and another is supporting the provision of new childcare places.

The City of York Strategic Hub is taking an innovative approach to meeting both of these goals, through the development of an information widget, a standalone application that can be embedded in third party websites. Information about local demand and possible gaps is a vital tool when it comes to influencing the development of the childcare market.

SEND Case Studies

Good Practice

Contact a Family have partnered with 4Children on the Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs programme for the last three years. In 2015/16 they delivered bespoke SEND training to the Hubs. This case study summarises learning from hubs that have a SEND focus.

Opportunities & Challenges for 30hrs

Research shows that 40 per cent of families with disabled children say they are not accessing the full 15 hours of early education a week. So what does this mean for the extended offer for working families to 30 hours.

Perspective from Contact a Family

Feedback and themes from the training sessions that Contact a Family ran with 4Children on the Early Learning and Community Childcare Hubs programme.

What Good Looks Like for Parents

This case study is written by Stacey Lewis, mum to daughter May, who was born with severe brain damage. She writes here about what good quality early learning and childcare means to her. She hopes her experiences will help the Hub improve their practice for other children with SEND.

Perspective from Parents on the Hubs Model

Contact a Family ran two focus groups for parents with young disabled children between January and February 2016 to inform the production of the practice case studies.  Contact a Family asked parents to give their perspective on the aims and objectives of the Hub model (to improve quality, information and availability of early years education and childcare in a local area).

SEN Resources for Hubs

Guide for working with parents of children with SEND

This guide aims to support all early years practitioners to reflect on how they work in partnership with parents of children with SEND. It also aims to offer practitioners suggestions about how to prepare for and have those all-important initial conversations with parents regarding concerns about their individual child’s development.

How Contact a Family can help

Free resources, including guides, leaflets and other Contact a Family publications on supporting families with disabled children.

Reaching out to families with disabled children

Families with disabled children might not want to use your hub due to a number of reasons. Here are some practical ideas on how to attract such families.

SEND information checklist for hubs

Contact a Family has developed this checklist to help community childcare hubs review how they support families who have children with additional needs, disabilities or health conditions to find information on local provision.

Top tips for information

Top tips for parents and professionals.

SEND Reforms

What do the Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms mean for hubs.

Further Resources… (click to open)

Presentations (click to open)