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Thousands of 2-year-olds missing out on free early education

Around 80,000 disadvantaged 2-year-olds are not benefitting from the free early education they are entitled to, according to a new survey from Ofsted.

Despite a 10% increase in the number of 2-year-olds using their entitlement, Ofsted has reported that one third of eligible children from low income families didn’t use their funded place last year. The Unknown children - destined for disadvantage? report released today highlights that more than £200 million allocated to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children, has not been spent - meaning the poorest of children are not benefiting from the quality childcare to which they are entitled.

The report highlights that ‘almost half of all disadvantaged children still do not have the essential knowledge, skills and understanding expected of their age group by the time they finish Reception.’ Yet the take-up of free early education places for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds in England has never been higher and 84% of 2-year-olds are taking up their funded places in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ settings.

According to Ofsted in many deprived areas, children are less likely to have access to high quality early education’. The report points to inconsistencies at local authority level and provides a series of recommendations to improve information-sharing and ensure that there is sufficient provision of high quality childcare locally. It also prompts settings and local authorities to focus on the early years pupil premium for 3-and 4-year-olds and ensure it is being used in the most effective way.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, PACEY comments:

“Even though more children than ever before are utilising free early education places, the most deprived communities are not being reached. It is those children, from the poorest backgrounds, for whom high quality early years education can make the most difference. We recognise the vital role that childcare professionals play in giving children the best start in life and it is critical that local authorities, settings and government come together alongside sector representatives to find a way to reach those most in need.”