Government plans to give an extra year of free education to thousands of two-year-olds who are in care or from disadvantaged backgrounds could lead to a drive to fill new teaching vacancies.
Currently, only three and four-year-olds receive free nursery education but as part of the government’s ‘Fairness Premium’ it intends to fund an extra year of free education for some two-year-olds.
The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that the proposals could see around 140,000 young children qualify for an additional year of education at no cost to parents.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather MP said that early education and childcare are crucial for development but too many children begin education already ill-equipped to do well.
“Evidence shows that attainment gaps can open up as early as 22 months and persist through school,” she said.
“If we are to tackle this attainment gap and reduce social inequalities, it’s vital we get children from the poorest backgrounds, including those in care, into high quality early education.”
First mooted in October 2010, plans to be discussed this autumn will consider measuring disadvantage against the same means-tested criteria currently used to establish free school meals eligibility.
The government wants local authorities to provide the early year education starting from 2013.
As part of the plans, £331 million will be made available to local authorities to fund the places for two-year-olds who are from poorer families or in state care.
The DfE emphasised that children who may particularly benefit should be considered too, including those with special needs and disabilities.
Recent statistics released by the DfE claim that, by the age of five, fewer than half of children from the most deprived areas have reached a good level of development in comparison with almost 70 per cent of those from more affluent areas.
“Today’s announcement is a real step forward,” Ms Teather said.
Posted by Alan Douglas