Alliance calls for end of postcode lottery for youngest children

The Early Years Alliance has called on all political parties to focus more on ending regional inequalities for educational outcomes for pre-school children than offers of ‘free’ childcare.
Responding to the early years foundation stage profile results’ characteristic breakdown released today, the leading early education organisation said that an “electoral arms race” on ‘free’ childcare in recent elections has failed to target the country’s poorest children.
The calls follow the persistent variation between local authorities’ attainments with those achieving a ‘good’ level of development varying from 63.1% in Middlesbrough, the lowest ranking local authority, to 80.6% in Richmond upon Thames, the highest. The attainment gap between the lowest attaining 20% of children and more advantaged peers was also significantly varied depending on local authority with the gap varying from 22.1% in Richmond upon Thames to 45.5% in Middlesbrough.
Other local authorities a similarly significant attainment gap between all children and the lowest 20% of children are all in the North of England or the Midlands. They include:  Stoke-on-Trent; Kingston Upon Hull, City of; Sandwell; Bolton; Wigan; Dudley; Manchester; Wolverhampton; Birmingham; Oldham; Darlington; and Blackburn with Darwen.
Responding to the results, Neil Leitch said:
“These figures will make worrying reading for anyone concerned about social mobility. Behind the headline figures it’s clear that, even as attainment gaps narrow based on children’s gender and the inequality gap plateaus, significant regional variations remain. 
“As far as the early years is concerned the election so far has been dominated by various promises to extend ‘free childcare’ to as many children as possible. Today’s results should leave no one in doubt that the focus of that conversation has been misplaced: for the most part, greater access to funded hours seems to have done nothing for children in more deprived local authorities.
“Sadly, this was an inevitable consequence of an approach to early years that privileges those families who can afford to subsidise the government’s underfunding ‘free’ hours with higher fees and more additional charges at the expense of those who can’t. That puts enormous pressure on providers everywhere, and thousands have closed across the country, but there’s no doubt those in areas of higher deprivation have struggled more. 
“If our political leaders are serious about social mobility and ending this postcode lottery, they first need to end the electoral arms race of ‘free childcare’ and start looking seriously how accessible a quality early years education is to the children who need it most.” 
The results also revealed that there was a decrease in the gender gap for children achieving a ‘good’ level of development – down 0.6 ppts from 2018 and a decrease in the gender gap for achieving at least the ‘expected’ level – down 0.7 ppts from 2018.
The mean average total point score for the lowest attaining 20% has decreased from 23.2 in 2018 to 23.0.  However, it is up from 21.6 in 2013. The percentage inequality gap has risen to 32.4% in 2019 compared to 31.8% last year, however it is still lower than in 2013.

About the Alliance

  • The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.
  • The Alliance represents 14,000 members and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training programmes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.
  • The Alliance website is