Free nursery for toddlers

TWO-year-olds living in the Rotherham area will benefit from free childcare after the area was chosen for a new trial.

The authority has been chosen as one of ten to start offering the childcare in September - a year earlier than planned. A total of 89 places for disadvantaged two-year-olds in the area will be available.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister revealed the changes that will allow more parents to take advantage of the scheme - already used by more than 800,000 three and four-year-olds.

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It is intended that 150,000 of the two-year-olds will receive up to 15 hours a week of free pre-school education from September 2013, rising to 260,000 in 2014.

Joyce Thacker, strategic director, Children and Young People’s Services at Rotherham Council said: “Rotherham is delighted to be taking part in the trials which will help more two-year-olds to enjoy the benefits of early education.”

“We are already seeing those benefits in action from our existing delivery of early education for two-year-olds and are keen to extend this, particularly in the private, voluntary and independent sectors in preparation for the statutory entitlement being introduced in September 2013.”

“This will really help boost our efforts to give children the best possible start in life and extend the support on offer to their families.”

Mr Clegg also announced plans to extend the hours that parents can drop their off their children for their free places.

Currently parents are restricted by having to drop their children off no earlier than 8am and picking them up no later than 6pm - these hours will be extended to 7am-7pm.

Under the current rules, the free 15-hour nursery entitlement can only be used over a minimum of three days, meaning parents can only leave their children for five hours a day. Parents will be able to use the 15 hours over two days.

There will also be revised statutory guidance making it clear that parents do not have to pay to use their child’s free place, following concerns that some free places were being made conditional on parents being able to make additional payments.