Free nursery places for 140,000 disadvantaged toddlers

 
Children at nursery Toddlers can go to a variety of nursery settings

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As many as 140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds could have free nursery or childcare places under a scheme planned to be rolled out in England.

Plans to give 15 hours of free "early education" a week to all two-year-olds from poor homes were announced last year but details have now been set out.

A pilot scheme, first started under Labour, is due to be extended nationwide from September 2013.

Children's charities have welcomed the news but say more investment is needed.

At the moment, all three and four-year-olds are currently entitled to 15 hours of early education for 38 weeks a year.

This can be in nursery schools and classes, children's centres, day care nurseries, play groups, pre-schools and with accredited child minders.

Under the new plan, which is out for consultation, parents will be able to use their allocated time flexibly, between 07:00 and 19:00.

So for example, they could have seven-hour slots for two days a week, to make it easier for them to work.

'Balance work and home'

Ministers say access to early education improves the life chances of poor children by helping them develop and get ready for school.

Disadvantaged children are far less likely than others to do well in education.

Under the pilot, 20,000 two-year-olds received the free provision in a year.

Start Quote

It's crucial for their healthy development and means they're not falling behind before they have even started primary school ”

End Quote Sarah Teather Children's Minister

Extending it to all two-year-olds in low income families would mean 140,000 stood to benefit every year, the government said.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "I want us to give every child the best possible start - so free education for toddlers from the most disadvantaged homes will now be a right and not a privilege.

"Crucially the extra care will be flexible and easy to access. Parents across the country are bending over backwards to balance work and home. The coalition wants to help in whatever way we can."

Families where children would qualify for free school meals are those who would be entitled to the free care.

The Children's Minister Sarah Teather said: "Our priority is to increase social mobility by helping children from the poorest backgrounds in their earliest years.

"High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child's life. It's crucial for their healthy development and means they're not falling behind before they have even started primary school."

Spending cuts

The charity Save the Children welcomed confirmation of the nursery places, but warned that spending cuts could damage the government's ability to improve children's lives and social mobility.

Start Quote

We need investment in this area if the government is going to deliver on its promises on social mobility”

End Quote Chris Wellings Save the Children

Head of policy, Chris Wellings, said: "We welcome the places for deprived two-year-olds. A lot of evidence shows that high-quality education can give disadvantaged children a better early start.

"We also welcome pilot schemes which are giving individual support to parents to help them improve their home learning environment.

"But we are concerned that the government is also cutting money for early years. Early years and youth services will be cut by 20% in this Parliament. We need investment in this area if the government is going to deliver on its promises on social mobility."

The government has also published a breakdown of how many two-year-olds would qualify in different parts of England.

More than 20,000 would be eligible in London and a similar number in the north-west of England.

Nearly 17,000 in the West Midlands would qualify and a similar number in the South East. In Yorkshire and the Humber the figure is nearly 15,000 and in the North East it is nearly 8,000.

All 152 councils in England have been involved in the pilot schemes. Some are looking for reassurance that there will be funding for the new places as their grant from central government is being cut by about 25% over this parliament.

Councillor Nickie Aiken, from Westminster City Council, said: "Westminster City Council was involved in piloting this scheme and we welcome these proposals to give disadvantaged children a head-start in their education, to simplify the guidance around early years provision, and to focus on quality teaching and care to improve the outcomes for our young children.

"However, we need clarification from the government as to where these hundreds of extra nursery places are going to come from. Once the new proposals are fully rolled out, Westminster will need to provide an additional 600 free places to two-year-olds, and the practicalities of this need to be explained to local authorities."

The government is funding 15 trials in 18 local authorities to test approaches to expand free early education and look at best practice across the country.

The government says it has included an allocation for the scheme up to 2013 in its early intervention grant to councils and is consulting on how best to fund the free nursery places from then on.

 

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  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 62.

    This seems like a great idea in theory. But can't help but think those who don't work and spend all day at home living off benefits will be the ones whos children get to go! Those in the lower middle classses struggling to get by will be the ones who get screwed over, again!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 61.

    What about removing the stupid £55/week one can receive as childcare vouchers since £55 is more like the price PER DAY and PER CHILD for any accredited childcare provider (minders or nurseries alike)?

  • rate this
    +34

    Comment number 60.

    Good nursery education can bring stability to a little one whose home life is chaotic. It introduces him / her to reasonable adults on a daily basis. He / She can have mental stimulation that you do not get stuck in front of a TV set. We all benefit in the long run by bringing these kids into society.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    I have a perhaps simplistic view of education. If it is seen as truly adding value and pretty much mandatory, then the public purse should pay. There should be provision for those who show the greatest ability, regardless of their ability to pay. So is nursery adding value for these children? I highly doubt that 2yr olds get anything meaningful from their time there, so am against this.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 58.

    "55. OpinionOtaku

    Can't I have left wing ideals and at the same time accept a lot of right wing decisions as necisary due to the current economical climate (I appologise for my spelling)"

    Yes you can - its called being a realist!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 57.

    @ 48. Poppetts48

    Unfortunately, I think it is the culture of rights without responsibility - 'It's our right to have children, and the state's responsibility to provide.'

    We, like you, will not see any of it and our son will only get the one morning that we can afford until he is 3 1/4.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 56.

    My wife and I can only afford one child due to the high nursery fees & the need to work. Being middle-class we won't benefit from this proposal.
    However, I feel children in all walks of life should be given the chance of helpful start in early development.

    A helpful start means they will be more likely to be employed and contribute to our pensions and less likely to riot and loot.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 55.

    God only knows where I stand in scheme of things. The thinking seems to be that left wing are communists who go beserk over cuts, and right wing are racist facists with a love of money and hate of the poor.

    Can't I have left wing ideals and at the same time accept a lot of right wing decisions as necisary due to the current economical climate (I appologise for my spelling)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 54.

    37. single no kids
    Yet more of my tax money going towards paying for things for other peoples kids. I really am getting sick of it!
    ___
    Although I do not live in the UK, I pay taxes there. I haven't the slightest objection to that money going towards bringing up children who are not my own. Perhaps a scheme like this can help to reduce the fear of children that people seem to have.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 53.

    I hope this is because the pilot scheme was a success?
    The circle of depravation has to be broken and I hope this is money well spent, not another waste of hard earned tax payers money

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 52.

    Remember this next time some desperate lefty screams CUTS!

    An extra 120,000 nursery places - well done.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    Re 30 Digbic78.. you are right with the stereotype. I had a good job the prospect of a good pension worked hard for 30 years but had it all ripped away following my wifes death. Now I live in relative poverty you are 100% right in your comment

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 50.

    Much rather see this case be used to allow kids of 4-7 to have additional creative time in classrooms between 3PM and 5PM so as to allow the day 9AM-3PM be used for, dare I say, reading, writing and maths - then PE/"topic" in afternoon and then creative classes like art in the 3PM-5PM slot. Structured learning IMHO that allows for a level of flexibility and provides for care when parents need it.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 49.

    It a good idea but surely all children deserve a good start no matter where they are from? My little girl is 3 and we have not been offered a place at a council nursery until she is four because they are at bursting point!! Where are they going to put all these 2 year olds? If 3 year olds can't get in then there is no hope for 2 year olds!!

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 48.

    My husband and i work very hard and earn good money between us. However we have considered the costs of children. We will think twice before having children to ensure (WE) can provide for them.
    We have done nothing but pay our taxes for many years, we do not receive anything in return, just pay for others.
    I do not see the point in having children if You can not provide for them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    Excellent idea, as long as the parent/s use the opportunity to work.

    My husband works all day then takes over child-care so that I can work. Even so, the fees at our preschool have gone up so much that when our second child turns two we will barely be able to afford one morning a week for him.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 46.

    Did it ever occour to you people that the parents of these children may be bad people, they might be drains on society. But this scheme may give these children a chance of getting a better lot in life, I can't think of many other things that I would rather have my taxes pay for.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 45.

    Another prime example of the nanny state interfering in people's lives. We need to reduce state sponsored socialism, not increase it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 44.

    32. Martin
    5 MINUTES AGO
    Raymond the reason so much lack of support for the scheme is because it is crazy.
    ___
    Tell that to the Finns, Martin. They manage to combine day care for all who want it with quality time at home, and it works superbly well. I agree, home care is of the utmost importance, but it needn't be one OR the other. It is possible to have the best of both worlds.

 

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