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Disadvantage gap in early years stops closing

By Rachel Lawler
EPI disadvantage gap
Progress made in closing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers “may have ground to a complete halt”, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute.
In its latest report, Education in England 2019, the education thinktank reported that there had been “no real change” in the average scores in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile between 2017 and 2018.
Widening gap
The report also warned that the attainment gap between children eligible for Pupil Premium funding and their peers did not change between 2017 and 2018 – in fact it widened from 4.4 months to 4.5 months of progress.
The EPI also noted regional differences in the disadvantage gap across the UK. In 17 local authorities there was an average gap of six months between disadvantaged five-year-olds and their peers. This is a third larger than the national average.
The EPI says that if current trends continue, it will take more than 500 years to close the disadvantage gap and said that it may even start to widen in the near future.
Funding shortfall
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We have warned the government for some time of the potential damage to social mobility because of the £662m funding shortfall in early years education.
“We already know that childcare providers in deprived areas are twice as likely to close as those in affluent ones – often because poorer parents cannot afford the voluntary extras or private hours that providers are forced to charge to make up for the lack of adequate funding. Not only has underfunding plunged the early years sector into crisis, today’s report shows how it risks harming the children who most need quality, early years education to keep pace with their more advantaged peers.
“This should be a wake-up call to the government, and an urgent priority for the new Children and Families minister. We need urgent action to reverse the widening disadvantage gap, and this can only be done through proper funding of the government’s flagship childcare schemes.”
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