Latest Public Sector News

13.07.15

Half of disadvantaged two-year-olds are not benefiting from free childcare

Half of the disadvantaged English families with two-year-olds entitled to free childcare through a government scheme are not using it.

This is despite the fact that the costs of keeping a two-year-old in full-time nursery education have reached £918 a month or around £11,000 a year, according to the Family and Childcare Trust.

Places in the scheme, which provides 15 hours of weekly childcare, are available for children in care, with disabilities, special educational needs, or who come from families on benefits.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said: “We know that children from poor families don’t do as well as those from better-off backgrounds.

“There’s a 19-month [achievement] gap by the time they start school in reception. That 19-month gap has to be made up in the early years.”

c. Dominic Lipinski PA Wire

According to Ofsted’s annual report, the standard of care in pre-schools and nurseries has improved, with 85% of settings now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ compared with 78% the previous year.

Yet around 113,000 eligible children have not taken up their place in programme. According to the report, there are over 40 local authorities where there are no disadvantaged two-year-olds in any maintained school.

The flagship scheme began in September 2013 but opened with a shortage of places, leaving around 38,000 children unattended.

It was then expanded in 2014 to cover 260,000 children after an influx of £755m to local authorities.

Cllr David Simmonds, of the LGA, said: “Many early years providers, including nurseries, childminders, and school-based settings, opt to work with their local councils, and mums and dads are seeing the results with more high quality provision becoming available.

“However, we could do so much more if some of the bureaucratic barriers preventing councils from using their expertise were lifted.”

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