NURSERIES across Bradford are set to share a fund worth nearly £760,000 to boost pre-school education for the poorest children.

The new Government investment, worth around £300 per eligible pupil, aims to ensure three and four-year-olds from low income families don't fall behind their peers before they start school.

It is estimated that around 2,600 disadvantaged children in Bradford will qualify.

Announcing the England-wide scheme yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "Boys and girls from poorer families have often already fallen nineteen months behind their better off classmates by the time they hang up their coat on the first day of school. Increasing their chances of success has got to be a top priority.”

Nurseries will be free to decide how to use the money to help the children develop, but could use it to employ more staff or specialists in areas like speech and language.

The fund is an extension of the coalition Government's flagship Pupil Premium scheme, which gives schools a payment for every child they teach from a poor background.

A consultation on how the nursery fund will work in practice is to begin soon.

Schools Minister David Laws (Lib Dem) said: “The new Early Years Pupil Premium will support 2,600 disadvantaged children in Bradford, helping to capture those children who need support at an early age.

"The aim is to bring them on a level playing field with their peers by the time they start school."

The extra cash has been welcomed by the Labour-led Bradford Council.

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children's services, said: "Anything that brings more resources into early-years education is going to be a useful thing for us to work with.

"We need to make sure we respond to the consultation, but in principle I agree. It fits in with a lot of what the council is trying to do."

He said in particular, it would complement a £50m lottery grant awarded to Bradford last week.

The cash, from the Big Lottery Fund, was given to the Better Start Bradford community partnership led by Bradford Trident, which works with families in Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton.

About 20,000 children, from before birth to three-years-old, are set to benefit from the ten-year project.