Clegg's social mobility plan 'is failing youngest most in need'

Barnardo's warns that 'inexplicable' funding gap is affecting poorest pre-school children

The most vulnerable pre-school children are falling behind their peers even before they start school, due to an "inexplicable" gap in funding which casts doubt on the Government's flagship scheme to increase social mobility.

According to research by children's charity Barnardo's, Nick Clegg's much- vaunted scheme is at risk of failing because three- and four-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds have been omitted from the extra support.

The Deputy Prime Minister created extra funding to support children from the most deprived backgrounds, promising that the Government would intervene "at every stage of a child's education journey".

But the new research warns that while disadvantaged children are given additional funding from the ages of two to 18, this stops between the ages of three and the age at which they start school. This "inexplicable gap" in funding has the potential to undo all the early financial investment given to two-year-olds, it says.

Its report recommends that the Government could fill this gap – at no extra cost – by stretching the existing pupil premium so that it covers the age groups equally. This would help to close the attainment gap between poor children and their better-off classmates – a key factor in the Government's plan to improve social mobility.

Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo's chief executive, said: "Investment in early years is crucial; it can help children advance, catch up, and overcome disadvantage. It's one of the most important and powerful factors in determining a child's future.

"The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and ensure the most vulnerable three- and four-year-olds get the same additional support as schoolchildren."

From 2013, the 20 per cent most disadvantaged two-year-olds in the country will be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks a year. This will be extended to the most disadvantaged 40 per cent in 2014 – costing £760m a year or approximately £2,923 per child.

All three- and four-year-olds are currently entitled to 15 hours per week of free early years education for 38 weeks a year, but no distinction is made between children from wealthy and poor backgrounds.

Once children start school they can qualify for the Government's pupil premium – currently worth £600 a year extra for their school. It was launched last year in an attempt to improve the education of the most disadvantaged young people.

The Government plans to increase the money available to £2.5 bn by 2014-15, leading to payments of £1,320 per child, according to Barnardo's.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, warned that early years provision was at breaking point due to underfunding.

He said: "Providers are under massive pressure. I struggle to see how we can deliver on the Government's agenda without adequate funding.

"They are asking more and more of us but there is not enough money. We would ask the new ministers responsible for childcare to seriously look at the level of funding."

Case study: 'Children need support as early as possible'

Josie Lait, manager of Northend Children's Centre in Slade Green, Kent, has been piloting free places for two-year-olds since 2009

"I think the scheme is enormously beneficial. It is important to identify children's needs as early as possible. It might sound a lot of extra money for two-year-olds but we have worked it out as about £6 an hour. But that isn't enough to cover another practitioner which is what we really need.

"I agree that there should be extra money for three- and four-year-olds. If you get extra support at two, all your needs will not necessarily have been met by the time you turn three. I think the funding should continue all the way until you start school.

"Sometimes funding for three- and four-year-olds doesn't even cover our costs. The Government needs to pay what we need to remain sustainable. If children have additional needs, that will put extra strain on the system."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive - Manchester City Centre

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency wo...

Recruitment Genius: Artwork Design Apprenticeship

£7200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Artwork Design Apprenticeship is avail...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web design and digital age...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor