TODDLERS on Wearside are to benefit from a new child development scheme.
The Government-backed initiative will provide families who are entitled to benefits with up to 15 hours of free early education for their two-year-old children.
Sunderland City Council cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Pat Smith, said: “Attending a high-quality childcare place with either a qualified childminder or at a day-care nursery at such an early age is known to give children a good start to their education.
“Having access to this free education will not only help the children, but also help their families by providing parents with the flexibility and time to look towards improving their employment and economic circumstances.”
Once it is launched in April, the scheme will provide childcare places at day-care nurseries or with registered childminders within the community.
It is expected that 20 per cent of two-year-olds in Sunderland will be eligible for the support by September, which is likely to double next year, with 40 per cent of parents able to apply.
Mother-of-six Joyce Simms, of Southwick, is one of those taking part in the pilot scheme.
She said: “My son Jaxon, aged two, started New Beginnings nursery in January this year.
“Going to a nursery at a young age has really helped Jaxon’s learning and development. He is starting to learn lots of new words.”
Rachel Putz, from the council’s early intervention and locality services, added: “From the pilot that Sunderland has been running for two-year-olds, we have found that the children make better progress at nursery and in school as they get older as a result of early education.
“We are delighted that so many more children will now be able to benefit.”
Families entitled to free school meals or with specific needs will be entitled to apply.
Information and guidance is available at nurseries and childcare services across the city and from the Families Information Service on 520 5553.