To ask the Secretary of State for Education
(1) what criteria his Department will use to determine eligibility for free nursery places for two-year-olds announced in the Autumn Statement;
(2) how many children he expects to participate in the scheme providing free early years entitlement to children aged two in each financial year to 2014-15;
(3) what assessment he has made of the ability of local authorities to provide sufficient child care places to meet the demand for free early years entitlement for children aged two years;
(4) whether he will provide support to help local authorities increase local child care capacity to the levels needed to deliver free early years entitlement for children aged two years.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Autumn Statement that the early education entitlement for two-year-olds will be expanded to cover around 260,000 children—around 40% of two-year-olds—by 2014-15. The Government intend to take a phased approach to the implementation of the new entitlement. The 20% most disadvantaged two-year-olds—around 130,000 children—will be eligible from September 2013. From 2014, the entitlement will be extended to 40%. Currently, around 20,000 two-year-olds access free early education places.
We are already consulting on proposals for eligibility criteria for the first phase of implementation from September 2013. We propose that two-year-olds who meet the criteria for free school meals, or who are looked after, should be eligible for the entitlement. We will publish further proposals in due course about eligibility criteria to reach 40% of two-year-olds from 2014, focusing on the children and families that need them most. We will seek the views of parents, early education providers and local authorities on how this can best be achieved.
In recognition of the costs involved in reaching around 40% of two-year-olds, the Government have announced additional funding. A further £68 million has been included in the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) in 2012-13, in addition to the £223 million that was previously announced in December 2010. This funding is available to local authorities to build towards the new entitlement. Many are already using this funding to offer places to the two-year-olds who need them most, as well as to build capacity locally and support quality improvements. The early years market is dynamic and diverse, and we expect that it will respond positively to the increase in demand that the new entitlement will create.
We are working with local authorities, providers, and their representative organisations to support them in delivering the entitlement. The Government have set aside £4 million in the current financial year for 18 local authorities who are testing new approaches in providing free early education for two-year-olds. There will also be £5 million funding available in 2012-13 to support local authorities' delivery of two-year-old places. The Department for Education will discuss how this resource can best be deployed with local government partners and other sector representatives.