Free nursery places for two-year-olds

Free nursery places for two-year-olds.

Free nursery places for two-year-olds. - Credit: Archant

MORE than 353 extra nursery places need to be found across North Somerset for two-year-olds by September this year.

The Government has begun offering free nursery places to two-year-olds from lower income families for 15 hours a week.

Families can receive the funding if they meet the same income criteria for free meals – if they earn less than £16,190.

Around 20 per cent of toddlers in the district are currently eligible for the free places, but the initiative will be rolled out to even more families next year, meaning North Somerset Council needs to find hundreds of extra places for the youngsters.

Gill Hinton, from North Somerset’s family information service, said: “Research highlights the key role of parents and the importance of high quality early childcare in supporting children’s learning and development.

“The foundation years, up to the age of five, are critical to children’s life chances.

“Most children who are developing well at the end of their foundation years go on to achieve well in school.”

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North Somerset Council’s early years department is now trying to encourage private providers and childminders to offer additional places for younger children as well as working with council-run nurseries to find space.

The council is hoping at least 1,000 additional childcare places will be available for North Somerset toddlers by 2014.

The new policy is an extension of a current scheme, which enables all children to have 15 hours of free early learning education a week, for 38 weeks of the year, from the term after their third birthday.

Free hours can be taken with North Somerset approved accredited childminders, private nurseries or preschools.

To find out more about the scheme visit the North Somerset Council family information service site www.n-