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Report calls for focus on early years to close disadvantage gap

By Rachel Lawler
child play dough
Local authorities should focus on the early years as a “key priority” in order to close the disadvantage gap, according to a new report from The Sutton Trust.
Closing the regional attainment gap looks at the differing gaps between disadvantaged children and their better-off classmates, which varies across regions in the UK.
The report summarises evidence given to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility between November 2017 and June 2018.
It calls for the government to complete its promised review of the children’s centre programme and asks for a national strategy on children’s centres.
The report also recommends that early years teachers should be given Qualified Teacher Status, alongside an increase in pay, conditions and status.
Justin Madders MP, writes in the forward: “While indications are that the attainment gap is narrowing, at its current rate, we are still over 40 years away from closing the gap between disadvantaged five-year-olds and their more advantaged counterparts.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We know that the first five years of a child’s life are critical for their long-term development. As such, it’s vital that the government invests what is needed to ensure the provision of childcare that's not only affordable for parents and sustainable for providers, but also delivers the quality of care and education that young children both need and deserve.
“The report is also right to criticise the widespread closure and downgrade of children’s centres across the country. These services play an absolutely vital role in supporting children and families – and particularly those from more vulnerable backgrounds – and yet, the government seems to have abandoned any attempts to develop a coherent, sustainable long-term strategy in this area.
“Ministers talk so often about the need to close the attainment gap as early as possible, but to date, have failed to back up with their rhetoric with action. If the government wants to improve the life chances of all children, and especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, then it needs to invest more in the sector that is pivotal to making this happen: the early years.”
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