Amid warnings from Unicef that government spending cuts will “reverse progress on child poverty”, reported by the BBC, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has today announced plans to bring forward free early education for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.
Nick Clegg has promised today to bring forward a year to this September his programme of giving 2-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds access to free pre-school education.
In what he is describing as a “transformation in free early education”, the Deputy Prime Minister has also announced a series of changes that will give parents more flexibility on how they use free childcare.
Currently, more than 800,000 3 and 4-year-olds have access to 15 hours of free early education a week. The hours in which parents can bring in their children will be extended from 8am to 6pm to 7am to 7pm to help working parents. Parents will also be able to spread their nursery entitlement over two days rather than three.
A year earlier than originally planned, just under 1,000 2-year-olds in 10 areas of the country will also have access to 15 hours of free early education a week in a trial the Government is pledging to extend in September 2014.
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said, “High-quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child’s life. All the evidence shows how important it is for their development.”
Executive director of Unicef David Bull warned that the number of children living in poverty in the UK is set to increase due to spending cuts. In its annual report, Unicef warned that in a downturn, the first thing to happen is that children drop off the policy agenda.
The Government says it will be investing a further £1billion a year in early education.