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Childcare pilots for ten cities announced

Free childcare trials are to begin this September – a year early – Deputy PM Nick Clegg has announced.

The trials could benefit 1,000 two-year olds in ten towns and cities. Following the trials, the programme aims to give 150,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year olds up to 15 hours a week of free pre-school education from September 2013. This would increase to 260,000 children in 2014.

The first areas to receive the childcare are Blackpool, Cornwall, Greenwich, Kent, Lambeth, Lancashire, Newcastle, Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rotherham.

Greater flexibility will also be included in the hours, with parents given the option to spread their free nursery place over two days rather than three to fit in more easily around work.

Nurseries will not be able to make the free childcare conditional on parents taking up additional paid-for hours.

Clegg said: “We’re revolutionising the early start our children get in life – there will be more free childcare, it will be higher quality, and it will be more flexible for parents.

“By getting things right from the off we're making sure our youngsters are ready to learn when they start school so that they get the most out of their education.

“Every child should have a fair crack at the whip from the start and be able to go on to fulfil their potential.”

Labour’s children and families spokeswoman, Sharon Hodgson, supported the extension of free childcare, but called for the development of a comprehensive plan for childcare to ensure enough well-qualified staff and accommodation.

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive at 4Children, the national family charity, said: “The rollout of quality early years provision will ensure more young children get the best of starts in life.  It provides them with the foundations to succeed once they begin their formal education, and must be a vital element in any attempt to improve social mobility, or invest in early intervention.”

However, she warned of the challenge for local authorities to meet growing demand with reduced resources.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

Image c. Dave Buchwald


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