The government has announced it is to double the number of two-year-olds entitled to 15 free hours of free early education per week.
From next week, 40 per cent of two-year-olds will be eligible for the service, which builds on the entitlement of 15 free hours a week already available to all three and four-year-olds.
Children from less advantaged backgrounds often start school 19 months behind their peers, but good-quality childcare can help to reduce the attainment gap and have a significant impact on youngsters' development.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: "Without this help, children suffer and the whole class suffers as teachers have to focus more of their efforts on children who are frustrated and left behind through no fault of their own."
He added that he believed all people should be able to succeed in life, irrespective of their structure, background and circumstances.
Tax credits are used by the government to fund up to 70 per cent of childcare costs for low and middle-income families. In addition, tax-free childcare is being introduced from autumn 2015.
Posted by Theo Foulds