Alliance criticises government's 'empty rhetoric' following Education Committee report on disadvantage in the early years

Commenting on ‘Tackling disadvantage in the early years’, a new report published by the Education Select Committee, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said:

“We know that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely crucial in terms of their long-term development, and that any gaps that exist between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers in the early years will only widen if they aren’t tackled at the earliest possible opportunity.

"But while the government talks a good game when it comes to ‘closing the gap’ and supporting the life chances of children from poorer backgrounds, the fact is that many of its flagship childcare policies do the exact opposite.

"Research has shown that a lack of adequate funding for the 30 hours policy has resulted in councils scaling back, if not scrapping, early years schemes aimed at disadvantaged children, while many providers struggling to stay afloat have been forced to prioritise places for families willing and able to pay for ‘optional extras’ over and above those seeking wholly ‘free’ places. That families can earn up to £200,000 a year and still be eligible for the scheme at a time when government says money is scarce is nonsensical, and the Committee is right to call for this upper threshold to be reviewed.

"Add to this the fact that children’s centres appear to have been all but abandoned by ministers, and it’s clear that the Committee is completely justified in saying that the government’s approach to the early years is ‘entrenching disadvantage’.

“If the government is truly committed to tackling disadvantage in the early years, it needs to reflect on the findings of this report, take a wholesale review of its current approach to childcare policy, and ensure that it is delivering practical support to children, families and providers, and not just empty rhetoric."

ABOUT THE ALLIANCE

  • The Pre-school Learning 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 member settings 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’s Fair Future Funding campaign currently has over 7,000 practitioner and parent supporters.
  • On 18 February 2019, the Pre-school Learning Alliance will be rebranding to the Early Years Alliance.