Somerset County Council’s work in helping vulnerable children access free early learning has been recognised at a national level for the second time in 12 months.
All families of two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds who meet nationally-identified eligibility criteria can apply for up to 570 hours per year of funded early learning places at a range of childcare providers, from nurseries to pre-schools. It is up to local authorities to make sure sufficient places are available and to make sure eligible parents are aware of their entitlement.
A letter was sent to the County Council by Sam Gyimah, the Under-Secretary of State for Education, in October to congratulate Somerset for its success in helping 74.6 per cent of two-year-olds to access a place.
Now Mr Gyimah has written a second letter following February’s figures, which show the take-up in Somerset is now up to 82 per cent – one of the highest levels in the country.
This compares with a national average of 62 per cent take-up, and places Somerset in the top ten nationally, first in the South West, and second among statistically similar local authorities.
In the letter, Mr Gyimah says he is delighted with the progress being made, and thanks the Council for its work in helping give disadvantaged children a better chance in life.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: ““We are really glad that so many children are able to benefit from their early learning places. It’s good to see national recognition for a second time. We’re building on last year’s effective work and we are ahead of most of the country.
“Our goal is to give children the very best possible start in life and that includes making sure as many children as possible from disadvantaged families can access their free early learning places.
“I must thank the Early Years service as well as all our partners who have worked so hard to promote the offer. I must also thank our 387 childcare providers. We would not be able to make this offer to so many families were it not for their efforts in making sure enough places are available.
“Our challenge now is to stay among the top performers and improve the figures even further by reaching out to even more families.”