According to a new report by the National Audit Office, the Department of Education have succeeded in sustaining a 95 percent take up of three to four years olds in free childcare places since 2008. This level has been sustained despite an 8 percent increase in the eligible children for these places.

This positive news is slightly marred by the fact that there is a wide difference between take up, and to actual access to quality childcare. This access versus quality of provision seems to be hinging on geographical location in the UK. The report goes on to highlight that areas of high deprivation are less likely to be able to offer high quality childcare and that the take up of children from the most disadvantaged areas is lower than national take up. This gap needs to be addressed if we as a nation are to see real value for money later on.

Amyas Morse, Head of the National Audit Office, commented on the need for this to be bridged to ensure that an actual impact is made.

“Both of these are necessary if it is to get the best return for children from the £1.9 billion spent each year.”

This investment in early year’s childcare will not only save money later on, but arguably and more importantly, will have a high beneficial impact for the children. We can see this proof through the Sure Start Scheme and consequently the Sure Start Generation. The 2008 Study commented that three years olds with access to children’s centres in their area had better social development, more positive parenting, higher immunisation records and fewer injuries. All of which compound to a more socially aware and well adjusted generation.

Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister commented that

“ The earliest years of a child’s life are crucial to later development, which is why the coalition government is determined to invest heavily in this area….We are offering more 2 years olds from disadvantaged areas to attend nursery school because a huge amount of evidence clearly shows that these children will benefit most from early education… We are determined to improve the availability of quality places in disadvantaged areas, and offering free early education to around 40 percent of two years olds will help by bringing even more money into the system”

Do you feel that this is a true reflection of the state of Early Years childcare in the UK currently? Is there a true correlation between areas of high deprivation and poor quality healthcare. Let us know what you think and how this can be addressed.



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