More free places at pre-schools

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A FIFTH of Lincolnshire’s disadvantaged two-year-olds will be offered a free pre-school place next year in a bid to improve their chances of future success.

The move to create 360 places will more than double the current provision of 171 places for the 1,800 two-year-olds deemed “disadvantaged”.

It would be a step towards reaching a Government target of providing places for 40 per cent of qualifying children by 2014.

The scheme, which will cost more than £1million, will offer parents the chance to access 15 hours free provision in a bid to improve two-year-olds development.

The decision to increase the number of places was taken by Lincolnshire County Council in January and is due to be endorsed by the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee at a meeting on Friday.

A report to members says: “The importance of the first few years of a child’s life cannot be overstated.

“Children who have the right support in the foundation years enjoy better health, wellbeing and achievement at school and later in life.

“Evidence indicates that high quality early education makes a real difference to children’s development and their future success.”

In South Holland, only 14 children have accessed a free place since the scheme started in 2009, with just eight in February this year.

There are only eight settings in the district able to offer places.

Children are offered a place based on specific Government-defined criteria, including those whose families are on specific benefits, those in care or from a family with three or more children under five.

Experience with the scheme so far suggests children who take part see an improvement in their language development and become more confident and independent and provides valuable support for parents.