City toddlers to benefit from £100m nursery fund
MORE than 2,000 youngsters in Plymouth are set to benefit from £100million in government funding for new nursery places.
The cash is aimed at ensuring poor families can take advantage of a government guarantee of free childcare.
From September next year 800 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in Plymouth will qualify for 15 hours a week, with the number set to rise to 1,400 the following year. In Devon, 4,400 are eligible for free early education, and in Cornwall 4,100.
But the expected surge in demand means extra places will be required as local authorities deal with the new legal obligation to cater for the worst-off households.
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Nationally, it is forecast around 100,000 extra places will be needed.
The councils 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.
Deputy Prime Minister 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 and helps the most hard-pressed families who are struggling with the cost of childcare.
"The money we are announcing today will help nurseries and child minders get ready to deliver this revolution in early education."
No details have been released about how the money will be divided up among councils but priority will be given to areas where the childcare market is less developed, the DfE said.