Pupil premium to be extended into the early years

Laura McCardle
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The pupil premium will be able to fund early years provision from next year as part of a package of government measures to boost childcare.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today unveiled plans to target £50m of pupil premium funding at disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds in 2015 to improve access to early years education.

The government will also meet 85 per cent of childcare costs for working parents through the universal credit system in a bid to encourage 300,000 families off of benefits and into employment.

In addition, the coalition wants to extend the support provided under the new tax-free childcare scheme.

From autumn 2015, the government will provide up to £2,000 of funding annually for children under 12 years old on childcare costs of up to £10,000. The cap had previously been set at £6,000.

Clegg said the measures, announced ahead of the Budget tomorrow, would provide extra support to Britain’s most disadvantaged children.

He said: “All children deserve a better start in life. I’m committed to making sure that we create a fairer society too.

“Today’s package of support will provide a childcare boost for millions of hard-working families, and a £50m cash injection for early education providers to support those children who need extra help in their early years.”

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, who recently called on the government to introduce a long-term childcare strategy to support families on low incomes, has welcomed the announcement.

She said: “4Children has been calling for some time for further investment for disadvantaged youngsters by extending the pupil premium to the early years.

“This has the potential to improve the social wellbeing of the most disadvantaged children in their vital first stages of life, make childcare more affordable to struggling families and bring dividends for the economy.

“These are positive and welcome developments that will bring much-needed support to families who are struggling with high childcare costs and tight family budgets.”

Jonathan Rallings, assistant director of policy research at Barnardo’s, hailed the announcement as a victory for disadvantaged children.

He said: “By helping close the yawning funding gap for poor three- and four-year-old children, and bringing down childcare costs to make work pay for their parents, the government has today significantly improved the lives of the UK’s most disadvantaged families."

But shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell said the measures were too little, too late.

She said: “Of course any childcare support is welcome but this government has done nothing in this parliament to help parents experiencing a cost-of-living crisis.

“Childcare costs have spiralled by 30 per cent since 2010 and the Tories have rejected Labour’s plan for 25 hours of free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.”

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