§ Margaret Hodge
The Department for Education and Skills has responsibility for the development of child care places in England through the National Childcare Strategy. The Strategy is carried forward at a local level by Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs) that have been established in every local education authority area in England and are tasked with providing and supporting good quality, affordable child care in their respective areas.
More than 175,000 new pre-school child care places' have been created since 1997 and EYDCPs have plans to create approx. 140,000 new pre-school places over the next two years.
Many of these places will be created through the Neighbourhood Nurseries programme, a key component of the Government's wider Neighbourhood Childcare Initiative. Launched in January 2001, the initiative aims to create 45,000 new nursery places for children from birth to school age and 25,000 childminding places in the most disadvantaged areas of England.
Since September 1998 all four-year-olds have had access to a free part time early education place for the three terms before they become of compulsory school age.
In addition, we have also increased the number of three-year-olds accessing a free early education place from 34 per cent. in January 1997 to more than 66 per cent. in March 2002. From September 2004 all three-year-olds will have access to a free early education place.1Pre-school child care places include day care places lasting for three and a half hours or more per day and places with childminders.