From next week, around 40% of 2-year-olds will be entitled to 15 free hours of free early education per week - up from 20% last year.
Evidence suggests that children from less advantaged backgrounds often start school 19 months behind their peers, but also reveals that good quality childcare can reduce this gap and have a significant benefit in terms of a child’s development.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
Giving a helping hand to families that need it most will mean thousands more children get a brighter start in life. This September, we’re doubling the number of free childcare places for 2-year-olds. All parents need to do to check if they qualify is contact their local authority or children’s centre.
All the evidence shows that if you compare 2 5-year-olds hanging up their coats next to each other on the first day of school, the poorer child will already be behind their better off classmate before a single lesson has been taught.
Without this help, children suffer and the whole class suffers as teachers have to focus more of their efforts on children who are frustrated and left behind through no fault of their own. I believe that every British family, whatever its structure, background and circumstances should be able to get on in life.
Childcare and Education Minister Sam Gyimah said:
It is wholly wrong that children from lower income backgrounds can be behind their peers even before they’ve attended their first primary school lesson. We know that good quality early education can make a huge difference in levelling the playing field and improving a child’s life chances.
This free childcare entitlement gives children crucial support that could make all the difference to how well they do at school and beyond. I encourage parents who think their toddler may be eligible from this September to check this and make sure they don’t miss out.
The extension of free childcare to 2-year-olds builds on the entitlement of 15 free hours a week already available to all 3- and 4-year-olds.
In addition, the government meets up to 70% of childcare costs for low- and middle-income families through tax credits and are also introducing tax-free childcare from autumn 2015 which will see all eligible families receive up to £1,200 towards each child’s childcare costs.
The government is also launching a campaign today to encourage parents in areas of low take-up to get in touch with their council and take up their free entitlement.
Information about whether or not your child is eligible can be found at www.gov.uk/freechildcare.
To be eligible parents must be getting one of the following:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit) and have an annual income not over £16,190
- the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
- Working Tax Credits and earn £16,190 a year or less
Children are also entitled to a place if:
- they’re looked after by a local council
- they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan
- they get Disability Living Allowance
- they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
The campaign will primarily cover London, West Midlands, Yorkshire, East Midlands, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.