More than a half a million pounds is being invested in local nurseries in readiness to offer a thousand additional places for two year olds in Medway by 2014.

Around 50 pre-schools are set to expand under the new scheme and a small number of new nurseries will be developed in areas where high demand is forecast.

The plans will help to ensure children get the best start in life, improving their readiness for school and consequently resulting in educational attainment and a brighter future.

Medway has been allocated government funding of £560,659 to enable the council to carry out its statutory duty, to provide early learning places for vulnerable young children and those from low-income families.

Around 40 per cent of all two year olds in the area will be eligible for a free place by 2014, equating to approximately 1,400 children.

North Gillingham, Twydall and central Chatham have been identified as places where there will be a concentration of eligible families, and it is in these communities where a small number of new nurseries will be developed to complement the existing local pre-schools.

At this time, £360,000 of the Department for Education funding (DfE) has been set aside for these larger projects.

The expansion of an expected 50 pre-school facilities in Medway, including works such as additional toilet cubicles, has been allocated £200,000 of the grant.

The scheme, which will be reviewed in Spring 2014, represents a sustainable approach, utilising existing buildings, making improvements to local community infrastructure and ensuring that places are provided in the communities in which eligible families live.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Les Wicks said: “This is great news, low income will no longer act as a barrier to parents wishing to get their children into nursery.

“We are really pleased to have an exciting opportunity like this make a real difference to families who would otherwise struggle to reach high quality early years provision.

“It is the duty of Medway Council to ensure that disadvantaged young children have access to early learning.

“Parents can rest assured that everything possible is being done to create additional places to meet growing demand.