Nick Clegg says Lib Dems would protect £3bn early years funding

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Early years funding would be ring-fenced under a Liberal Democrat government, Nick Clegg confirmed today.

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Currently education funding is only protected for five- to 16-year-olds, but the Liberal Democrats say that they would extend the lower and upper age limits and ringfence education spending from the age of two to 19.

The Liberal Democrat leader also pledged to protect the full education budget in the next Parliament.

Including early years and 16 -19 education this would mean protecting around an extra £10 billion of Government spending in 2015/16, which would rise in line with inflation. 

Mr Clegg said, ‘Any parent knows that a child starts learning from the moment they are born and carries on learning all the way into adulthood.

‘My vision is of an education system that starts early and keeps children engaged all the way through.

‘That's why I believe we need to go further than the current protections for our schools.

‘I can announce today that in the next parliament, Liberal Democrats will protect the full education budget, covering children from the age of two to the age of 19 - from cradle to college.’

The Deputy Prime Minister added, ‘Money invested in our children is the best investment of all because education really can transform lives.

‘We believe education should be properly funded because education is the very core of a liberal society.’

The £10bn would include £3bn for the early years block of the Dedicated Schools Grant, covering £2.3bn on the free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds, £50m for the new Early Years Pupil Premium for disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds, and £670m on the free entitlement for 40 per cent of two-year-olds.

The remaining £7.1bn funding would cover the DfE’s 16- to 19-year-old budget for schools and colleges.

Commenting on the plans Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said, '4Children is calling on all political parties to guarantee funding for the early years to offer children the best start, so the announcement from the Deputy Prime Minister is welcome.

'Preventing budgets from being reduced is important within the context of tight local budgets but we do believe that spending in this area needs to increase to respond to rising demand for places with the premium also increasing to the same level per child as at primary school age.'
 
Children’s centres should also be included in the ringfenced budget, as they have been hit hard by recent budget reductions and face particular sustainability challenges in the future, she added.