Norfolk schools miss out on £22m government scheme to give children better nursery education
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Norfolk has missed out on a government investment scheme to help jump-start young children's literacy learning.
The £22m investment, announced by the Department for Education (DfE) on Tuesday, will create up to 1,800 school-based nursery places in disadvantaged areas to help more children access better-quality early education.
Two schools in Suffolk and four in Essex are involved in the scheme - but no schools in Norfolk will be benefitting.
The investment was announced alongside a new DfE campaign, Hungry Little Minds, to tackle problems in children's early literacy and communication learning.
Launching the campaigns, education secretary Damian Hinds said: "Part of making sure our children have the opportunity to take advantage of all the joys of childhood and growing up is supporting them to develop the language and communication skills they need to express themselves.
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"Sadly, too many children are starting school without these - and all too often, if there's a gap at the very start of school, it tends to persist, and grow.
"The only way we are going to solve this is through a relentless focus on improving early communication."
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While the percentage of children reaching a good level of development in literacy and communication by the end of their reception year has increased in the past six years, more than one in four children still leaves their first year at school without key skills.
The three-year Hungry Little Minds campaign aims to give parents access to video tips, advice and suggested games and apps to help with their children's early learning.
In relation to the investment for school-based nursery places, a DfE spokesman said a minimal number of applications had been received from Norfolk schools, and only bids which met strict criteria on quality and support for disadvantaged children were successful in securing funding.
Two areas of Norfolk - Norwich and Fenland - were picked out for the government's Opportunity Areas scheme, which launched in 2017 and aims to raise educational attainment and improve social mobility for disadvantaged children.
Meanwhile an infant school in Hellesdon was the only school in Norfolk chosen as one of 34 English hubs in a national DfE scheme to bring up literacy and reading standards.