Call to boost free nursery uptake for two-year-olds

The national scheme provides 15 hours of early years education per week for families earning less than £16,000 a year, but some parents may be unaware they qualify for the scheme.

It is estimated around 75 - 80 per cent of eligible families in Oxfordshire already use the scheme, but the council wants to see that rise further by raising awareness and encouraging families to consider the benefits of early years education for their children.

The council is appealing to families to visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/2yearoldfunding if they think they may qualify, and find out how to enrol their child at a nursery or other early years provider.

Early years provision includes school nurseries, pre-schools, day care nurseries and some child minders. It offers two-year-olds the opportunity to play and explore both indoors and outdoors, supervised and looked after by trained staff. Children are supported by their ‘key person’ (a member of staff who knows the child well), helped to become confident talkers and to enjoy playing with friends as they learn.

Helping development

Kirsty Johnson, whose two-year-old son Isaac attends the nursery at Pegasus School in Blackbird Leys, said going to the nursery had definitely helped his development.

She said: “He is a lot more confident in himself than he was before and he’s made real progress with his playing and communication skills. While Isaac’s at nursery it also gives me extra time to get on top of everything I need to do on a daily basis without having to worry about what he’s doing.”

Nicole Gill, whose daughter Alexis also attends the Pegasus School nursery added: “We have definitely seen a difference, especially in her speech, since she started going to the nursery. She likes singing a lot and is better with other children than she used to be. We’re really pleased we decided to send her.”

Making a difference

The council's Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families Melinda Tilley said: “High-quality early education can be crucial in making a difference to children’s achievement later in school. This funding means that two year-olds can enjoy being well-cared for while they learn, and I would urge people to find out if they qualify for a free place and consider the benefits of taking it up.”