Free education for disadvantaged toddlers in Lincolnshire could be extended
Disadvantaged two-year-olds in Lincolnshire will be offered free education under a new Government scheme.
Currently, Lincolnshire County Council offers between ten and 15 hours of free early education to a targeted number of children.
But under new plans this could be extended to 1,800 disadvantaged toddlers from September 2013.
The new plans will also make the free education entitlement more flexible and will also be extended to include children being looked after by the state.
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Assistant director of children's services at the county council, Debbie Barnes, said: "As part of a two-year pilot we've had additional government funding for 171 places for the most disadvantaged children across Lincolnshire, providing ten hours of early years provision per week.
"As we've been delivering this funding in a proactive and targeted way, making the most of every single hour, 833 children have benefited from this so far.
"This demonstrates, once again, that we have the interests of children at the heart of all we do here in Lincolnshire.
"We are well ahead of the game and remain committed to giving children and young people the best start in life.
"The government funding ceased in March this year, but we committed money to allow it to continue.
Further government funding will be re-introduced in 2013, which means up to 1,800 two-year-olds will gain from this opportunity each year.
"We will continue to ensure the most disadvantaged families can access this entitlement to support their children to learn and gain the skills they need to succeed."
This fulfils a promise made by Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in October 2010, in which he pledged to extend the free entitlement currently available to all three and four-year-olds.
Mr Clegg said: "I want us to give every child the best possible start – so free education for toddlers from the most disadvantaged homes will now be a right and not a privilege.
"Crucially, the extra care will be flexible and also easy to access.
"Parents across the country are bending over backwards to balance work and home. The Coalition wants to help in whatever way we can."
Sarah Teather, children's minister, added: "Our priority is to increase social mobility by helping children from the poorest backgrounds in the earliest years.
"High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child's life.
"It's crucial for their healthy development and means they're not falling behind before they have even started primary school.
"We want more children to be able to access their full early education entitlement.
"Too often, the most disadvantaged children don't get what they are entitled to. It's important we target early education at those who stand to benefit the most.
"We also want to make the entitlement more flexible.
"This is so that children don't miss out on early education and parents can help balance their work and family life more easily."