Sunderland’s £2million free nursery places boost

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HUNDREDS of disadvantaged toddlers are set to benefit from a £2million grant for free nursery education.

Sunderland is being allocated £2,256,192, to give 15 hours of nursery education to 817 two-year-olds for a year from next September.

Also, County Durham will get £3,603,574 for 1,304 youngsters and South Tyneside is set to receive £1,216,357 for 440 youngsters.

During the same period Sunderland will also get capital funding of £552,914 to help build, extend or improve nurseries and early education facilities – Durham will get £902,735 and South Tyneside, £301,399.

Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss has called for funding to be passed on in full to providers, to ensure that high-quality staff are recruited and retained and so that excellent operators are encouraged to open in areas of scarce provision.

Two-year-olds in good and outstanding settings see real developmental benefits according to government research, whereas two-year-olds in poorer quality settings are no better off than those who stay at home.

Evidence suggests that quality of staff is the key determinant of improved outcomes. Local authorities will receive an average of £5.09 per child per hour, for statutory places, which they are expected to pass on in full to schools, nurseries and childminders.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Labour’s Shadow Children’s Minister, said that while funding for childcare for two-year-olds is welcome, the announcement won’t do enough to help families who are struggling with higher childcare costs, less support through tax credits and a shortage of childcare places.

“The funding is not additional money – it is simply being taken from existing budgets that pay for children’s centres.

“Parents won’t be fooled. In fact, the overall budget for Sure Start children’s centres is falling by over 40 per cent. It’s no wonder there are already 281 fewer children’s centres compared to 2010.”

The Government is calling on councils to raise awareness so that as many families as possible take up the offer.

In future, funding will be based on the number of participating children, so less money will go to local authorities that have not ensured parents are taking up these places.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Good quality childcare gives children a headstart even before they walk through the school gates for the first time. No child should miss out on this just because of the circumstances of their birth.”

Twitter: @sunechoschoolsEducation Reporter