MORE than 200 families in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale have benefited from a ‘better start’ thanks to a £5million programme.

Free school meal pupils have been targeted by the Best Start Lancashire initiative, to provide extra support for reception, Year 1 and Year 2 age children.

County council chiefs began the programme in 2011-12 with a £2million investment and matched that funding for 2012-13.

An additional £1million has been earmarked for the coming year and beyond that it is hoped schools will use ‘pupil premium’ payments for free meal students to continue the work.

In Burnley 142 families were offered advice on bottle-feeding, potty-training and speech development, and individual support packages were put in place where necessary.

This school year the focus will be on helping parents to fill out school admission forms.

Fifty-five parents in Pendle took part in learning courses and 22 gained English and child support qualifications. Extra help with securing learning, training and employment opportunities is on offer in 2013.

Meanwhile in Rossendale school attendance was improved for five families and support packages offered for another 20.