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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 02:21 GMT
Childcare strategy 'is on target'
Nursery school
The amount of provision varied by region
The government is on course to meet its targets on pre-school childcare, creating almost 100,000 free places since 1998, an official report says.

But the National Audit Office said there was "some way to go" with provision in poorer areas.

Some 96,000 part-time places for three and four year olds have been created in England since the National Childcare Strategy was launched six years ago.

Children's Minister Margaret Hodge promised progress would continue.

She added: "In 1997, there was no universal entitlement to free early education.

"By April this year, every three and four year old will be entitled to free, part-time early education."

She also said there was no centrally supported childcare in the UK when Labour came to power six years ago and it was "diverse and uncoordinated".

"We have had to build the infrastructure, bringing together the separate elements of a disparate system for the benefit of children, families and communities."

Holiday provision

Since 1998, 626,000 new childcare places have been created in England, but 301,000 places have gone.

Most new places have been in out-of-school and holiday provision, but 96,000 are for pre-school children.

The NAO found regional and local variations.

For instance, the number of pre-school childcare places varied between 11 and 58 per 100 pre-school children.

The NAO's report recommends the Department for Education and Skills should ensure expansion is "sustainable", with efforts focused on the areas in which it is most needed.

It also calls for more training and commercial advice for childminders.

The Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, said: "The government has made impressive progress in creating new childcare places and in providing early education for pre-school children since 1998.

"But not enough of these new places are yet in deprived areas where they would most benefit children and parents."

Meeting the childcare challenge
23 Jul 03  |  Business

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