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Social Mobility Commission highlights divide between disadvantaged and more advantaged children

By Shannon Hawthorne

The Social Mobility Commission's annual State of the Nation report has revealed a stark contrast between outcomes for disadvantaged and more advantaged children in England.
The report found that disadvantaged children living in social mobility 'cold spots' – areas with fewer opportunities for social progress – are 14% less likely to be "school ready" at age five than their more advantaged peers.

Regional differences
Regional divides were also highlighted in the report, with the south-east performing best at early years and London also performing well. However, 94 local authorities saw less than half of disadvantaged five-year-olds reach a "good level of development". This is around 29% of all local authorities.
The Social Mobility Commission said that the best-performing areas offered high-quality early years settings, effectively promoted early education and offered parents evidence-based supported and integrated health and education services. It also noted that in its social mobility 'cold spots', around one in 10 early years settings were rated as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

Two-year-old funding
The report said that uptake of free early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds differs across England, with an estimated 29% of those eligible missing out on the scheme – or around 66,000 children.
The Social Mobility Commission has recommended that every local authority develop an "integrated strategy" for improving outcomes for disadvantaged children, which should be implemented through training and support for settings and by driving uptake of early education funding.

Funding concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, welcomed the report's analysis of the early years, saying that the Commission was “completely right to highlight the importance of the early years in improving social mobility”. However, he said that the report focuses on the role local authorities should play in reducing inequality, “it's clear that this needs to be supported by the actions and policies of central government".
Neil added: "If the government wants to close the attainment gap and improve the life chances of those children that need the most support, it needs to not only drastically increase current levels of investment into the early years sector, but also ensure that this money is being targeted at where it is most needed."
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