PARENTS of two-year-olds in Lancashire will benefit from part-subsidised nursery places from next year.

Around 2,628 children in Lancashire, and 491 in Blackburn with Darwen, are set to benefit from the new government initiative.

Nurseries will receive the additional funding, providing 15 hours a week free early education to two-year-olds from September next year.

A similar scheme is already in place for three and four-year-olds.

It is hoped the funding will encourage more good, and outstanding, nurseries, and help them keep the best staff and give more children access to high-quality early education.

Lancashire County Council will receive £7,259,833, and Blackburn with Darwen Council will be given £1,356,684 by the Government to fund the project. Lancashire was used as one of 10 pilot areas.

County Coun Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: “I am delighted at the success of the funded places for two-year-olds in Preston. It is making a real difference.

“Families tell us that this is just what they need. And children love it too. It’s been good for their speech and language development in particular and, of course, they’re learning to take turns, make new friends, and enjoy playing in ways they might not get at home.”

The Government is also calling on local authorities to ensure families take up the offer, which will be funded on a ‘use it, or lose it’ basis.

A new online tool from Ofsted will allow par-ents, and providers, to compare how many good and outstanding providers there are in each area.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “From 2013, 130,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will be eligible for 15 hours of free child-care a week, with double that number set to benefit the following year.

“Good-quality childcare gives children a headstart even before they walk through the school gates for the first time. No child should miss out on this just because of the circumstances of their birth.”