GOVERNMENT minister Sam Gyimah visited a Bognor Regis nursery to launch a national publicity drive for free chidcare places.
Mr Gyimah, the under secretary of state for childcare and education, went to Stepping Stones Day Nursery to highlight the extra funding for two-year-olds.
Government funding from Monday, September 1, has enabled the number of children of that age eligible for 15 hours free childcare a week to double from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.
Mr Gyimah said Stepping Stones, led by Lorraine Meller, had taken the scheme on board.
“There has been an incredibly positive response to this initiative around the country. It is voluntary.
“Not every parent has to send their child to nursery. But all the evidence suggests it has a very positive impact on their development and learning. “We are launching a national publicity campaign this week to make parents aware of the scheme so they can take it up.
“We are also working with local authorities to make sure places are available so every parent who wants a place is able to get one.”
Mr Gyimah praised Stepping Stones and its expansion into a permanent building on its South Way site.
“It’s fantastic what they have been able to do for the past 22 years in two portable buildings. That just shows you what an impact on children amazing staff can have.
“It’s good to see them moving on to the next stage in their development,” he said.
Mrs Mellers said Stepping Stones had 15 funded two-year-olds out of some 40 on its books. That number was set to increase as a result of the new funding and the extra places being created.
Mr Gyimah’s visit had been positive for the nursery, she said.
“He understands our future development and expansion from 67 children to 124.
“The new building will give us a lot more opportunities to work with parents. There will be a room for training and for meeting parents and for them to meet each other.
“The building will work alongside our two existing buildings. They will still be extremely important to us.”
But she said the current buildings had limited the number of available places to mean parents had been turned away.
The new building is being funded by £150,000 of government money plus funds from the nursery and The Regis School academy of which it is part.