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Centres for early years

The Government wants local education authorities to renovate old school buildings and turn them into Early Excellence centres, writes Linda Blackburne.

The White Paper called for 25 centres to be set up as "beacons of excellence" in early-years teaching. Although most of the centres are likely to open in two or three years' time, ministers are hoping that pilot schemes will start within the next 12 months.

Councils are being encouraged to apply for funding under the New Deal for Schools programme.

The centres, which will integrate the care and education of young children and concentrate on training and outreach work, will be attractive for publicprivate partnership investment, says the Government in a letter to chief education officers. It is interested in schemes where employers buy childcare places for their employees' children.

Roy Jobson, chair of the Association of Chief Education Officers, welcomed the letter, saying that the Government had listened to authorities' recommendations.

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