DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Bridgwater to see how the Government’s childcare scheme is taking shape.
Mr Clegg dropped in at The Olive Tree Nursery in Westonzoyland Road, where he chatted over breakfast with some of the youngsters, visited the sensory room, which helps children with learning difficulties benefit from physiotherapy in a tranquil environment, and even had time to read a story.
Mr Clegg spoke to the Mercury about the importance of nursery education.
He said: “This is a fantastic nursery that’s catering for a huge range of little children of different ages, different needs and coming from different families.
“I particularly like to see that this nursery has been so active in making itself available to families locally to take up the new entitlement the Government has made available to provide all three- and four-year-olds with 15 hours of free pre-school support.”
Mr Clegg said from September that entitlement is being extended to two-year-olds from the 20% of families with the lowest income, doubling the number of families who are eligible.
“Olive Tree is among the nurseries which have the highest number of two-year-olds taking up that entitlement locally of almost any other nursery/childcare setting, not only in Somerset, but actually more than most other places in the country,” he said.
“Everything about what Helen and her team are doing is fantastic.
“All the evidence is overwhelming. If you can get two-, three- and four-year-olds into successful settings like this before they even go to school it can give them a fantastic boost.
“It then enables them to learn much better when they go to school.
“I was talking to a little girl in the group who was saying how excited she is to be going to school in September, and I bet you she’ll be much better placed to listen to teachers, listen to authority and mix with other children because she has been here for some time before.”
Helen Hazell, The Olive Tree Nursery manager, said: “It’s brilliant that Nick came to visit us, and it’s nice to see that he’s genuinely concerned and wants to help deal with everyday issues.”