Up to 1,800 nursery places will be created in schools as part of a government drive to improve childhood literacy and communication in early years.
The education secretary, Damian Hinds, announced today that 66 projects have been given the go-ahead to open nursery classes in primary schools in disadvantaged areas, backed by a £22 million investment.
Research: No learning at home for 100k under-5s
And the announcement comes alongside the launch of the government’s early learning Hungry Little Minds campaign, which will give parents tips on how to use everyday opportunities, such as shopping and playtime, to help improve children’s language skills before they start school.
Cash for preschool education
Mr Hinds said: "Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life but not everyone has family support at hand and there is no manual telling us how to do everything right.
"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.
"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."
More than one in four (27.6 per cent) of children left Reception year in 2018 without achieving the expected level in all five areas of listening and attention, understanding, speaking, reading and writing.
Other projects supported through the government's coalition of businesses and organisations include:
- Transport company Arriva, in partnership with Penguin Random House, will run a series of book giveaways at stations;
- HarperCollins is working with 12 bookshops across the UK through individual grants of up to £2,000 that will support events for parents and children under 5.
- Pearson will be providing free early years vocabulary kits for children aged 3 to 4, to 500 nurseries in areas of high deprivation, developed with speech therapy experts using Lego Education Storytales resources.
This announcement comes after funding for seven early learning projects, including sending parents literacy tips by text, was announced in November last year.
The new nursery places, opened under the school nurseries capital fund, fulfil a manifesto pledge to support primary schools to open nursery places.
Last week, official statistics revealed there were almost 20,000 two-year-olds in state-funded primary and nursery schools in January 2019 – up from 2,775 in 2014.