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Almost 9,000 childcare places to be created for three and four-year-olds

Focus on six "opportunity areas" of Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset

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Focus on six "opportunity areas" of Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset

Thousands of new childcare places for young children are to be created under a £50 million scheme, ministers have announced.

The move will help to deliver a government pledge to offer three and four-year-olds in England 30 hours of free early education a week, according to the Department for Education.

It said that almost 200 nurseries and pre-schools will benefit from the funding pot, allowing them to invest in new buildings, upgrade old ones and improve facilities.

Nearly 9,000 places are expected to be created due to the new money.

Over £2 million of the public money is to be invested in the government's six "opportunity areas" - places considered to be falling behind on social mobility.

These are Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset.

Education secretary Justine Greening said: "We want Britain to be a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

"That means removing the barriers facing parents who are struggling to balance their jobs with the cost of childcare, and spreading the opportunities available to hard-working families across the country.

"This funding, backed by our record £6 billion investment in childcare per year by 2020, means we can make more free places available to more families across the country, helping us to deliver our childcare offer to thousands more children."

Under the current system, all three and four-year-olds in England, as well as disadvantaged two-year-olds, are eligible for 15 free hours of childcare a week.

This is due to be doubled to 30 hours nationwide later this year, for all but the highest earners.

Early years groups and experts have raised concerns about the move, warning that nurseries and other childcare providers need more money from government in order to meet the 30 free hours offer.

Last year the National Audit Office warned that there was not enough proof that £2.7bn a year being spent on childcare was raising school standards.

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