More free nursery school places for West
Almost 12,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds in Devon and Cornwall will get free access to nursery school places, the Liberal Democrats will announce today.
Town halls are to be given £100 million to spend on new nursery places in a bid to ensure poor families can take advantage of a government guarantee of free childcare, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said.
From September next year, 130,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will qualify for 15 hours a week, with the number set to double the following year – at a cost of £760 million a year.
In Devon and Cornwall, 3,700 two-year-olds will be eligible in the first year, and 7,900 in the next.
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But the expected surge in demand means around 100,000 extra places will be required as local authorities deal with the new legal obligation to cater for the worst-off households.
They will be expected to use the cash – found from underspends in the Department for Education (DfE) budget – to encourage existing providers to expand their operations and help others enter the market.
Officials hope it will give a kick-start to the market and persuade voluntary sector bodies and private firms to set up or expand nurseries, as well as boosting council provision.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: "So much of a child's future is determined before they hang up their coats on their first day at school.
"It is vital that we do all we can to make sure a child's potential isn't determined by the circumstances of their birth. That is why we will give thousands of two-year-olds access to free early years education over the coming years.
"Good-quality early education gives children a head-start before they even start school."