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140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds to benefit from free early education

November 11, 2011 3:27 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

This is a key Liberal Democrat policy delivered by the Coalition Government. It builds upon our achievement of extending free childcare to 15 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

"Giving children a fair start in life is at the heart of what I and the Liberal Democrats are about. It is an absolute disgrace that a child born today in one the poorest neighbourhood in Sheffield, where I am an MP, can expect to live 14 years longer than one born in the wealthiest neighbourhood.

"We know that the earlier we help children the bigger difference we can make to their lives. That's why I am proud to announce plans to give 15 hours free childcare for the 140,000 two-year-olds most in danger of falling behind."

Liberal Democrat 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.

"We want more children to be able to access their full early education entitlement. Too often, the most disadvantaged children don't get what they are entitled to. It's important we target early education at those who stand to benefit the most.

"We also want to make the entitlement more flexible, so that children don't miss out on early education and parents can help balance their work and family life more easily."

The announcement is part of a consultation, published today, on changes to free early education. The proposals published in the consultation will:

Make the free entitlement to 15 hours per week of free early education more flexible. This means parents would be able to access it earlier and later in the day - between 7am and 7pm - and across two days instead of three days.

  • Use the criteria which is used for free school meals to decide which disadvantaged two-year-olds should qualify for free early education.
  • Include two-year-olds who are looked after by the state in the eligibility criteria for free early education.
  • Slim down the guidance for local authorities from 100 pages to fewer than 20 pages.

Nick Clegg announced in October 2010 that the Government would extend 15 hours of free early education - currently available to all three-and four-year olds - to disadvantaged two-year-olds. From September 2013 up to 140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds will stand to benefit.

Local authorities in England have been delivering a targeted offer of between 10 and 15 hours of free early education to some of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds since September 2009. The extension of 15 hours to all disadvantaged two-year-olds will mean an increase in the number of places from 20,000 per year to around 140,000 per year.

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