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Disadvantaged children “locked out” of early years opportunities

By Rachel Lawlerchild playing blocks toys

The 30 hours funded childcare offer has “widened the gap” between disadvantaged children and their peers, according to a new report from the Sutton Trust.

The report found that the offer disproportionately benefits better-off families, with 70% of eligible parents in the top half of earners.

In contrast, just 13% of eligible families are in the lower third of income distribution.

Using modelling by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the report suggests that extending the 30 hour offer to three- and four-year olds who were previously eligible for funding for a disadvantaged two-year-old place would cost an additional £165 million a year by 2024-25 if current funding rates remain frozen in cash terms.

The report also calculated that extended the offer to all three- and four-year-olds would cost an additional £250 million a year.

The Sutton Trust predicts that this would benefit children in the 16% of families with no income and could reduce regional inequalities in access to the 30 hours offer.

In a survey conducted by the Alliance, 80% of early years providers said they would welcome extending the 30 hours offer to more children but it was “universally felt” that this would only be feasible with increased funding.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented:  “We know that high-quality early years provision can play a huge role in narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers, and so clearly there is a strong argument to be made for widening access to the current 30 hours offer.

“However, as this research shows, the majority of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders would only support such changes to the 30-hours policy if they are adequately funded to deliver it. The harsh reality is that for many, any extension of the scheme at current rates of funding is simply unfeasible.

“If the government is genuinely committed to improving the life chances of all children, then clearly it needs to invest in the sector that is proven to have the biggest impact on long-term learning and development: the early years.”

Find out more
Read the report in full here