Bucks tops early education take-up table

More parents in Bucks are benefiting from free early education and childcare for two year olds than anywhere else in the immediate region, new figures show.

Buckinghamshire is first among 11 neighbouring counties for take-up of the Early Education Entitlement, with 84% of eligible families accessing a free place through the scheme.

And it is second in the entire South East, with only Brighton & Hove having a better take up rate at 88%.

The figures, recently released by the Department for Education following a survey, were hailed as ‘fantastic news’ by Zahir Mohammed, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education & Skills.

He said: “I understand we were seen as under-performing in this area two years ago, so it is wonderful how our early years team has turned things around, and made us the top-rated local authority in this regard among our neighbours.

“More importantly, it means families and their children are reaping the benefits of this care which can be of real value to their lives.”

Free early education and childcare is available for eligible two year olds for 15 hours a week during school term time at pre-schools, nurseries, school based early years provision and childminders. The scheme, funded centrally, is targeted towards children who will benefit the most, with the primary focus being on economic disadvantage – which equates to about 40% of parents of two year olds.

The national average for take-up of early education entitlement is 70% but, in September 2014, the rate in Buckinghamshire was just 63%. Officials say the improvement has been brought about by a number of initiatives such as greater collaboration with partners, additional support available to families in finding a place, increased promotion, and simplifying the application process through an online form.

Cllr Mohammed added: “This news follows the recent release of a report that showed 100% of all of our nursery schools, pupil referral units and special schools were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. This shows that young children in this county are very well served in terms of education.”

To find out more about the scheme, go to: http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/education/early-years-and-childcare/free-childcare-for-2-year-olds/