£1.2m for free nursery places

CARE Samiha T Ahmed with Afshan Bano at Flatts Nursery, Dewsbury.
CARE Samiha T Ahmed with Afshan Bano at Flatts Nursery, Dewsbury.

More free nursery places are on the way for two-year-olds after senior councillors approved a £1.2m grant scheme.

It is part of a national drive to grant disadvantaged children aged two 15 hours of free nursery care a week.

A council report read: “This provision is targeted at the most disadvantaged children in order to narrow the gap in achievement between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and others.”

Kirklees began the scheme in January and 769 two-year-olds are already in nursery receiving up to 25 hours of free care. Councillors expect the figure will rise to 2,900 by September 2014.

The report added: “Due to local variations in the number of children who will meet the eligibility criteria this could equate to approximately 50 per cent of all Kirklees two year olds.”

Coun Peter O’Neill, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I think this is good news for Kirklees. Firstly it allows more children to access early learning to give them a good start in life.

“It will also improve the life chances for the most disadvantaged children.” He added that the move would create more jobs.

The childcare market in Kirklees already employs around 2,500 people.

Grants will now be offered to Ofsted-registered childcare providers, such as schools, play groups and childminders, to fund more places for two-year-olds.