THOUSANDS of deprived children in East Lancashire will get the equivalent of £300 funding each for a better start in life.
A windfall from central government of more than £1.3million will also help provide more childcare for families struggling to get out to work.
The money will help disadvantaged three and four-year-olds in Lancashire and Blackburn and will help to prevent them falling behind before they have even started school.
More than 4,600 children in Lancashire could benefit from the cash known as the Early Years Pupil Premium. The premium sees £300 per each eligible pupil given to early years providers. It will also provide more free childcare for those on low incomes.
According to research, children from low income families are estimated to already be 19 months behind more advantaged peers when they start school.
Lancashire County Council’s schools boss, County Coun Matthew Tomlinson said: “We really welcome the boost this will give some of our residents who need the most help. If there is more free childcare, then a barrier that is preventing a lot of people from getting out to work is removed.
“By the time children start school, those who are less well off are typically far behind the others and this will help address that.”
Nurseries will have freedom to decide how to use the money to help youngsters learn and develop. Providers can employ more qualified staff or specialists in activities like speech and language to give an extra focus on basic skills.
Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said she hoped the scheme would benefit Lancashire’s most deprived communities.
She said: “Children from low income families are already behind their peers in language and communication by the age of five – this is not good enough.
“We expect nurseries across Lancashire will use this money to create more high quality nursery provision led by teachers.
“We know it’s a challenge to close the attainment gap later on but with the introduction of the Early Years Pupil Premium we hope it will prevent this gap from emerging in the first place.”