§ Maria Eagle
Currently around 70 per cent. of three year-olds are able to access a free, part-time early education place. The 65 most deprived local education authorities already offer a free place to all three year-olds whose parents want one. The remaining authorities are responsible for devising eligibility criteria for the distribution of free places in their area according to social need.
On 11 December 2002, Charles Clarke announced that all three year-olds will be entitled to receive a free place from April 2004. This is six months earlier than originally planned.371W
It has been necessary to increase gradually the number of free early education places available for three year-olds in order to allow authorities time to build up the amount of provision in their areas.