11 Nov 2011

Free nursery places for disadvantaged toddlers

Up to 140,000 two-year-olds from poor homes could benefit from plans to extend free nursery education, Minister for Children Sarah Teather says.

Children's minister Sarah Teather announcing more nursery places for disadvantaged children (Getty)

The government is publishing proposals which it says will give parents more “flexibility” in childcare, amid concerns that some youngsters are missing out.

Under the plans, which are out for consultation, free early education would be available 7am to 7pm.

Previously, Channel 4 News has reported concerns from the nursery sector that a government pledge to provide 15 hours of free nursery care for the most disadvantaged youngsters may not be possible without more funding.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg first announced plans to give all two-year-olds from poor homes 15 hours of free early education in October last year.

We want more children to be able to access their full early education entitlement Sarah Teather

Work-life balance

The government wants to extend the current system in which slightly older children – three and four-year-olds in England – are eligible for this amount of care. The current system, first introduced by the last government, also allows for some of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds to receive between 10 and 15 hours of free early education.

Ministers claimed that the numbers of free places for these youngsters was set to rise from around 20,000 to around 140,000 a year if their plans come to fruition.

Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: “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.”

She added: “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.”