There has been another increase in the number of three and four
year olds taking up funded nursery places, with 96 per cent now
using a place, according to latest figures from the Department for
Education and Skills.
The proportion has increased from 71 per cent in 2000, with the
increase in funded places provided entirely in the private and
The number taking up funded places in private and voluntary
sector nurseries has more than doubled from 125,000 in 2000 to
380,000 this year. Independent schools have also seen a massive
increase in the number of three and four year olds with funded
places, while maintained nursery and primary school places have
The government has set itself the target of a free nursery
education place for every three-year-old whose parents want one by
March 2004. There were 77 free places per 100 three year olds in
January 2003. A place is defined as five two-and-a half hour
sessions per week.