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Liberal Democrat News 18th November 2011

November 18, 2011 8:28 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Children's Minister Sarah Teather launched the consultation on this important help for young children during a visit to the Church Street Nursery in Central London.

"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," Said Nick.

"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."

The consultation includes proposals to:

  • Make the free entitlement to 15 hours per week of early education more flexible, so it can be taken between 7am and 7pm, and spread across two days instead of the current three days.
  • Use the criteria which are also 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 in the eligibility criteria for free early education.
  • Slim down statutory guidance for local authorities from 100 pages to less than 20 pages.

The consultation will run until the 31st January 2012.
The announcement follows the government's commitment, made by Nick in October 2010, to extend the 15 hours of free early education - currently available to all three and four year olds - to disadvantaged two year olds from September 2013.
The expansion will be funded by additional government support to local authorities, rising to £380m per year by the end of the spending period.
Sarah 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."

All 152 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 will mean an increase in the number of places across the country, from 20,000 per year to around 140,000 per year.

Also in the paper this week
The party president Tim Farron on the Eurozone and Cllr Sian Reid, leader of Cambridge city council reports on some of the radical green schemes initiated by the Lib Dems.

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