06 April 2011

Northamptonshire has been chosen as one of only 15 local authorities to benefit from £4 million of government funding to provide free early learning and childcare to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in their communities.

Northamptonshire County Council has been awarded £145,500 to introduce a trial looking at new approaches to best deliver free early education entitlement for two-year-olds.

Councillor Rebecca Harding, assistant cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It is really good news that Northamptonshire was one of only 15 local authorities selected out of 110 applications. We’ll be investing the money in a pilot project to increase parental choice by raising the number of childminders and providers who reach the quality standards for delivery of the free entitlement.

“The trial will build on existing early intervention and prevention practices, working with families and a range of services to increase the number of children accessing the pilot and helping to improve outcomes for children.

“Activity funded through this trial will help us to meet our corporate outcome of helping people to help themselves by raising awareness of the free entitlement with families and professionals which in turn will allow them to make informed choices about their children’s early education.”

The trial will work with partners to increase the number of network childminders and quality early years providers delivering places for the pilot in the communities where this need is identified so that every disadvantaged two-year-old can benefit. The 10 hours a week of free early learning and childcare for two year-olds can be offered flexibly to help support parents juggle work and family life.

The work developed through this new trial in the county will support preparation for the planned national expansion of the free entitlement to all disadvantaged two year olds by 2013.

The eligibility criteria used in Northamptonshire ensures that those families most in need are effectively targeted, by applying an economic disadvantage model and including looked after children within this eligibility.

Participating families and carers will already be working with a range of professionals and their local Children Centre to access wider services.