HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc565-6W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to provide funding for pre-school playgroup places for three-year-olds in Buckinghamshire. [134581]

Ms Hodge

Details of the funding we will be making available to Buckinghamshire local education authority to fund places in 2001–02 will be announced shortly. Figures are not available for the number of places specifically funded in pre-school playgroups.

From April 2000, Buckinghamshire local education authority were allocated £144,000 to create a total of 124 new, free, part-time early education places in 2000–01 for three-year-olds in all settings. This was increased in September 2000 by £193,000 to fund a further 250 places.

The allocation of places at a local level is the responsibility of the Buckinghamshire early years development and child care partnership. At a national level, approximately 80 per cent. of the new places made available for three-year-olds are in the private, voluntary and independent sectors.

Since May 1997, we have increased the number of early education places for three and four-year-olds nationally by 120,000. Already, all four-year-olds in Buckinghamshire have access to an early education place. By September 2004, all three-year-olds will also have that.