Hinds pledges more nursery places for deprived families

Up to 1,800 new school-based nursery places in disadvantaged areas are to be created - backed by a £22m investment - the government has announced.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds made the announcement when unveiling a raft of new measures that aim to improve the early literacy and language skills in children before they start school.

The £22m is part of the School Nurseries Capital fund, which was set aside through the government's Social Mobility Action Plan, published in December 2017.

This investment will be used to open nursery places in schools across every region; 66 projects have been given the green light to increase early years provision in areas with high numbers of families who get free school meals.

The new places will be created through a combination of new build projects, or expanding existing schools rated "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted.

Successful projects will work with the Department for Education to ensure successful implementation.

In addition, Hinds launched a three-year Hungry Little Minds campaign to give parents access to video tips, advice and suggested games to help with early learning, and set out the criteria for educational apps that parents can use with their children, including promoting interactive learning and play.

Hungry Little Minds builds on work by the DfE and National Literacy Trust to bring together a coalition of businesses and organisations to support parents to play a bigger role in their child's early education.

This includes Pearson, which is planning to give free early years vocabulary intervention kits to 500 nurseries in areas of high deprivation, developed with speech therapy experts using Lego Education Storytales resources and designed to close the speech and language gap among children aged three and four. Pearson is working with a group of nurseries in Birmingham to test the kit ahead of its wider launch later in the year.

"Part of making sure our children have the opportunity to take advantage of all the joys of childhood and growing up is supporting them to develop the language and communication skills they need to express themselves," Hinds said.

"Sadly, too many children are starting school without these - and all too often, if there's a gap at the very start of school, it tends to persist, and grow.

"The only way we are going to solve this is through a relentless focus on improving early communication. We're launching a society-wide drive with new nursery places, support from business and steps to make learning easier in the home - to improve early learning across the country."

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