Bradford faces a shortfall of more than 1,000 early-years places for two-year-olds this September, it has been revealed.
Bradford Council’s education boss Councillor Ralph Berry yesterday said tackling the problem was a top priority.
From September, Government changes mean more disadvantaged two-year-olds can get up to 15 hours a week of free education in either state-run or private settings.
Bradford is expected to be one of the areas most affected by the changes, with an extra 5,200 eligible toddlers, and the Council has been working hard to create thousands of new early-years places to accommodate them.
So far, 24 building and extension projects are either under way or complete at schools and nurseries, with a further five projects being considered.
If these get the go-ahead, they would take-up the last of a Council – and Government-funded pot of £3.6 million – to pay for the works.
But the authority is still anticipating an overall shortage of 1,036 places in September. It is expecting to miss targets in 18 of 41 areas, many of them in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
A new report reveals what is being done to tackle the problem, which includes four new sites which could be developed thanks to an extra £1 million of funding set aside by the Schools Forum.
Coun Berry said because the district had such a large number of children, there were very few primary schools which had the room to take on two-year-olds.
And he said private nurseries “are not rushing forward” to offer places, as the financial rewards were not proving attractive enough.
Coun Berry said while they were making all efforts to tackle the issue, he was not expecting demand to outstrip supply, as many families are not expected to take up the free childcare offer.
But Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, Liberal Democrat leader, said more needed to be done.
The Conservative group’s education spokesman, Councillor Roger L’Amie was unavailable for comment. The issue will be discussed by the Children’s Services overview and scrutiny committee at a meeting next Tuesday.
Priority areas and the early-years places they need:
Mortimer House, Fagley 81; Lidget Green 53; Barkerend 39; Gateway, Ravenscliffe 37; Canterbury 27; Owlet 19; Bingley Rural 15; Burnett Fields, Little Horton 14; Woodroyd, West Bowling 10; Thornton 9; Allerton 7; Bierley 6; St Edmunds, Girlington 5;
- The Drive For Early Education:
The Government drive to get disadvantaged two-year-olds into free early-years education began last year.
All children aged three and four were already being offered 15 hours of free lessons a week to prepare them for school life.
Then from September last year, some two-year-olds became entitled to between ten and 15 hours of free childcare at a school, nursery, playgroup or childminder.
These were children of parents on out-of-work benefits and children in care.
From this September, the eligibility is being widened further to include two-year-olds from low-wage working families who get Working Tax Credit, those who are disabled or have special needs, and children who have left the care system, such as adopted children.