Consultation launched on free early education


Free early education will be extended to 140,000 disadvantaged two-year- olds, and parents will be able to access the free entitlement more flexibly, under plans published by the Government.

Currently, 15 hours of free early education is only available to three- and four-year-olds. From September 2013 it will be extended to disadvantaged two-year-olds

Under the plans, up to 140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours a week of free early education. The extension will mean an increase in the number of places across the country, from 20,000 per year to around 140,000 per year.

Sarah Teather, Children’s Minister, said: "Our priority is to increase social mobility by helping children from the poorest backgrounds in their earliest years. High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child’s life. It’s crucial for their healthy development and means they’re not falling behind before they have even started primary school.

"We want more children to be able to access their full early education entitlement. Too often, the most disadvantaged children don’t get what they are entitled to. It’s important we target early education at those who stand to benefit the most.

 "We also want to make the entitlement more flexible, so that children don’t miss out on early education and parents can help balance their work and family life more easily."

The consultation includes proposals to:

  • Make the free entitlement to 15 hours per week of early education more flexible, so it can be taken between 7am and 7pm, and spread across two days instead of the current three days.
  • Use the criteria which is used for free school meals to decide which disadvantaged two-year-olds should qualify for free early education,
  • Include two-year-olds who are looked after by the state in the eligibility criteria for free early education.
  • Slim down statutory guidance for local authorities from 100 pages to fewer than 20 pages.