HC Deb 23 March 2000 vol 346 cc646-7W
27. Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in providing nursery education for three-year-olds; and if he will make a statement. [114626]

Ms Hodge

The sum of £390 million is being made available, over a three year period, to create 190,000 new free early education places for three year olds. By March 2002, 66 per cent. of all eligible three-year-olds in England will be able to access a free place.

In 1999–2000 up to £40 million, enough to provide places for up to 48,000 children, was available across 64 local authorities with the highest level of social deprivation.

30. Dr. Lynne Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps have been taken to integrate care and education for the under-fives. [114630]

Ms Hodge

From the start of the National Childcare Strategy we have been keen to bring together early years and child care and we are successfully achieving this objective.

We have established Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships in each of the 150 local education authority areas. The partnerships are required to set out policies for developing the vital links between care and education, especially in the early years and include them in their plans. We are currently assessing this year's Plans and will be working with Partnerships throughout the year to encourage integration.

Under provisions in the Care Standards Bill we are also seeking to integrate the regulation of child care and early education under new National Standards regulated by Ofsted's new Early Years Directorate.

Additionally, the 29 Early Excellence Centres are piloting seamless integration of services in a variety of settings. I have placed in the Library a copy of our report on First Findings from EECs showing, among other things, that for every £1 spent on family support, £8 is saved on alternative services.

The New Opportunities Fund is also providing up to £15 million to fund integrated out of school childcare and learning activities. This is for children across the range from three to 16 with no specific amount for under-fives. We are setting up 250 Sure Start programmes in areas of disadvantage to promote the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of young children under four. Each programme will work in partnership with local parents to improve access to health services. family support, advice on nurturing, child care and early learning.