THREE-year-olds in six local education authorities will have less than a one in 10 chance of a free education place despite the Government's target of providing places for two-thirds of the age group.

Difference between provision across authorities means that, while all three year-olds in Redcar and Cleveland are expected to be offered a plae by April 2001, only 6 per cent of those in Hampshire and Leicestershire will get the same opportunity.

The discrepancy was revealed by junior minister Margaret Hodge in response to a question from Liberal Democrat MP Richard Allan. The other authorities with few places to offer are North Somerset, Poole, Wiltshire and Wokingham.

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