Clegg announces further pre-school boost

Two-year-olds are to benefit from an extended pre-school education offer earlier than originally billed. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hailed the move as a transformation in free early education when he announced a shake-up of the way it is delivered.

The changes include a huge boost for hundreds of two-year-olds who will get access to free childcare. Two-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were due to start receiving free pre-school education from 2013, but Nick wants to see the programme rolling out early from this September.

Liberal Democrats believe the right way to give children the best start in life is to give them the help they need in the crucial early years to stop them falling behind. That’s why Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government have maintained free early years education for all three- and four-year-olds, and are extending this to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds.

The new changes include:

  • Early rollout of free pre-school education for approx 1,000 two-year-olds in 10 areas – these areas will trial the entitlement from this September.
  • Greater flexibility for parents – the hours in which parents can bring in their children for their free place will be extended by two hours to 7am – 7pm (from 8am to 6pm).
  • Giving parents the option to spread their free nursery place over two days rather than three. Under the current rules, hours have to be divided over a minimum of three days, which means parents can only leave their children for five hours a day. Currently, many working parents are unable to take up all of the hours available to them because of this.
  • Revised statutory guidance making absolutely clear parents do not have to pay any top-up fees to access their child’s free early education place – after concerns that some free places are being made conditional on parents making additional payments.

Currently, more than 800,000 three and four year olds nationally access up to 15 hours of free early education every week. The Coalition is pledging to extend free childcare to around 150,000 of the least advantaged two-year-olds from September 2013, rising to around 260,000 in September 2014.

“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,” said Nick.

“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 of the whip from the start and be able to go on to fulfil their potential.”

Childrens Minister, Sarah Teather agreed: “Too often, the most disadvantaged children don’t get what they are entitled to. It’s important we now work with councils, nurseries and childminders to target free early education at those who stand to benefit the most.”