Nick Clegg hails a revolution in free pre-school education - Chelmsford residents benefit.

May 30, 2012 2:10 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg and Stephen RobinsonTwo year olds to benefit from extended pre-school education offer early.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg hailed a transformation in free early education as 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 earlier than originally billed.

Liberal Democrats believe the best 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.

Two-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were due to start receiving free pre-school education from 2013, but Nick Clegg wants to see the programme rolling out early from this September.

Nick Clegg has announced a series of new changes to childcare, including:

  • Early rollout of free pre-school education for two-year-olds in 10 areas - these areas will trial the entitlement, with just under a thousand two-year-olds set to benefit 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. Currently, parents are restricted to dropping their children off no earlier than 8am and picking them up no later than 6pm. This will be extended to 7am - 7pm.
  • 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. This doesn't offer enough flexibility for parents who work part time, for example. 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 - this follows concerns that some free nursery places are being made conditional on parents being able to make 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.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick 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 of the whip from the start and be able to go on to fulfil their potential."

This morning (Wednesday 30 May), Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrat Children's Minister Sarah Teather held a summit with some of the country's biggest childcare providers to discuss how best to deliver the extension for two-year-olds.

Sarah Teather said:

"High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child's life. All the evidence shows how important it is for their development.

"The challenge now is to make sure the least advantaged two-year-olds are able to access their early education entitlement. 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.

"I am determined that the Coalition Government will do all it can to make sure the poorest two-year-olds and their families can reap the benefits from our investment around the country."