The Department for Education has published new statistics which reveal that the take-up of free early education places for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds in England has never been higher.
The most striking finding is that the number of 2-year-olds taking up a funded early education place has risen 10 points in the last year. In 2016, 68% of the eligible 2-year-old population (166,920), are now accessing a funded place, up from 58% (157,040) in 2015. The 20% most disadvantaged 2-year-olds have been eligible for 15 hours of free early education per week since 2013, and in 2014 this was expanded to 40% of 2-year-olds.
In addition, 95% of all 3- and 4-year-olds are now taking up the universal entitlement to a funded early education place. There has been an increase of 17,530 children accessing a place, though the estimated participation rate remains the same as last year.
The figures also show that 86% of 3- and 4-year-olds and 84% of 2-year-olds are taking up their funded places in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ settings.
For the first time, the Department has published how many children it estimates are eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP). Since April 2015, all early years providers offering funded places have been able to claim an additional 53p per hour if they care for disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds who meet certain criteria. The Department estimates that 11.5% of 3-year-olds and 12.1% of 4-year-olds are eligible for EYPP. However, it has not published how many eligible children are actually accessing EYPP funding.