GOVERNMENT POLICY ON EARLY YEARS

GOVERNMENT POLICY ON EARLY YEARS

Focus on the most disadvantaged

Comment

In keeping with the their focus on the most disadvantaged pupils and the  belief that good quality early education helps tackle disadvantage and improve children’s life chances,  the  Government has  continued the policy of the Labour  Government   in guaranteeing  that all three and four-year-olds to receive 15 hours per week of free nursery education

. This will be extended to every disadvantaged two-year-old from 2013.  In terms of the funding early education Places for disadvantaged Two-Year-Olds- the Department will provide £64 million/£223 million/£331 million/£380 million over the next four years. For the first two years of the spending period, this funding will be routed through the Early Intervention Grant. The Government has introduced an Early Intervention Grant which is un-ring-fenced and un-hypothecated funding stream which, from 1 April 2011, will give local authorities greater flexibility to target resources strategically and intervene early to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. The Government have ensured there is enough money within the Early Intervention Grant to maintain the  network of Sure Start Children’s Centres, accessible to all but identifying and supporting families in greatest need. To date only the EIG funding for the financial years 2011-12 and 2012-13 has been announced and is only available by local authority-the  figures local authorities in England are available at:

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/xls/e/early%20intervention%20grant%20-%20final%20allocations%20methodology.xls

Local authorities have a statutory duty—under section 7 of the Childcare Act—to secure nursery places free of charge, effectively prohibiting top-up fees. This ensures that there are no barriers to accessing the benefits of nursery education for all children, but particularly the most disadvantaged. Parents are free to purchase additional hours and services outside of the hours for which providers receive funding from local authorities.

The Government are seeking to improve the efficiency with which funding is distributed to providers, through the Early Years Single Funding Formula (EYSFF) reforms, as well as reducing bureaucratic burdens on providers who deliver free nursery education. Many providers will also be benefiting from other support that local authorities provide for early learning and care. Providers will want to take into account this whole package of support before deciding whether delivering free places fits with their business model.

Sure Start children’s centres are a clear priority for Government- as they are seen as playing an important role in supporting families with young children and intervening early to prevent problems from becoming crises. Sure Start Children’s Centres funding in 2010-11 was £1.1 billion.  The Government believe that they have ensured there is enough money in the system to maintain a network of Sure Start children’s centres accessible to all but targeting the families in greatest need. Again the Government believe that it is the job of local authorities, in consultation with local communities to determine the most effective way of delivering future services to meet local need. They have a duty to consult before opening, closing or significantly changing children’s centres and to secure sufficient centre provision to meet local need so far as is reasonably practical. However a long standing problem is  measuring the effectiveness of Sure Start Centres, and the value they add.

Note: Pupil Premium: The Government is also introducing for the disadvantaged a  deprivation pupil premium for 2011-12  which will be allocated to local authorities and schools with pupils that are known to be eligible for free school meals as recorded on the January 2011 school census, pupil referral unit census and alternative provision census. Each pupil known to be eligible for free school meals will attract £430 of funding which will go to the school or academy, via the local authority or YPLA if the pupil is in a mainstream setting, or will be managed by the responsible local authority if the pupil is in a non-mainstream setting. The Government aim to extend the coverage of the pupil premium from 2012-13 onwards to pupils who have previously been known to be eligible for free school meals.

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