Free childcare extended

Family in field

Free childcare will be offered to one in five two-year-olds from the poorest families starting today, with another 20% set to receive the same from next year, the government has announced.

Up to 130,000 two-year-olds will be eligible for free childcare from today if their family qualifies for free school meals or if their local authority looks after them, said deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

From September 2014 this will be extended to 40% of two-year-olds, by allowing families who earn less than £16,190 a year and receive Working Tax Credits to claim the benefit.

Clegg said: "From today, if you're a parent on a low income with a two-year-old in the family you'll qualify for up to 15 hours a week of free early education for your child.

He added that poorer children are already behind other children before school even starts. "All the evidence shows that if you take two children... the poorer child will already be behind their better off classmate before a single lesson has been taught.

"Without this help, children suffer and the whole class suffers as teachers have to focus more of their efforts on children who are frustrated and left behind through no fault of their own."

Children who have been adopted, are in care or have a disability, or have special educational needs will also been entitled to the benefit from next year.

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