Janet Grauberg, a policy consultant with think-tank Centre Forum and a former adviser to Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary, said an additional £300 a year to help disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds is welcome, but fears that it is unlikely to be enough to convince popular settings to "reach out" to disadvantaged children.
In her response to the government consultation on the proposals, Grauberg said the EYPP should be increased over time from its proposed rate of £300 a year for each child – the equivalent of an additional 53p per child per hour – so that it eventually matches the school-age pupil premium.
The 2014/15 pupil premium rate is £1,300 for primary aged pupils and £935 for those at secondary school.
“The EYPP needs to be set at a level which will encourage excellent providers to reach out to such children and attract them to their setting, in the way that schools are now being encouraged to do with the schools premium," she said.
“Early years settings, operating in a genuine market where funding follows the child, are likely to be much more responsive to this approach than schools have traditionally been.
"The simple fact is that £300 a year, or an additional £0.53 per child per hour is not sufficient to act as such as an incentive.”
Grauberg also said providers should not be left to decide how the money should best be spent as there is too little evidence available to guide them.
Instead, as a “transitional agreement”, the government should require the EYPP is spent on increasing the quality of staffing. She wants to see at least one graduate leading each setting and working directly with children, as she believes this is the most effective way to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
She said: “I disagree with the decision not to impose conditions on providers on how the EYPP is spent.
"I believe that the situation is different from schools, where the state has intervened to guide what is taught and how it is taught for decades, and where there is a stronger evidence base on what works.”
The EYPP is due to launch in April 2015 and the government estimates it could help more than 170,000 children from low-income families and those who have or are still in care as well as those who have been adopted.
The government has made £50m available to fund the EYPP in 2015/16.
The consultation closes today (August 22).