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It's never too early to learn

A "cradle to grave" focus on social exclusion runs through the comprehensive spending review, writes Karen Thornton.

That means preparing children for their school careers when they are barely out of the womb.

Under the review, the Government is promising outreach workers for new mothers in deprived areas, 190,000 extra free nursery places for three-year-olds, and more early excellence centres.

A new Pounds 540 million initiative called Sure Start will help to co-ordinate and build on existing health, early education, social services and other parental support services.

Education junior minister Estelle Morris said: "We want to target this resource at those areas where it will have the most effect and support parents and young children before problems arise."

Bob May, head of a Southampton infants school, said: "The proposals are very welcome in that they acknowledge the long-term impact of early experience and identify social deprivation as a primary block to educational success."

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