Liberal Democrats pledge to triple pupil premium in early years

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The Liberal Democrats would raise the pupil premium for nursery-age children to £1,000 a year, under plans released as part of the party’s election manifesto.

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Schools minister David Laws

The Early Years Pupil Premium was announced in March and is currently worth £300 a year for children from low-income families.

The funding would rise gradually over the course of the next Parliament until it reaches £1,000 a year.

According to the Liberal Democrats, around 170,000 children will benefit from the EYPP when it is introduced for three- and four-year-olds in April 2015.

Children’s entitlement is based on the criteria used for eligibility for free school meals, and children in care and adopted children are also eligible for the funding.

The Liberal Democrats said that as children are only funded for part-time education the extra money is worth more than the primary school pupil premium, which is £1,300 a year per child.

Early years providers will be paid an extra amount per year for each eligible child that takes up the full 570 hours a year funded place.

Early years settings will be able to spend the extra funding in any way they choose to support disadvantaged children but will be held to account at their Ofsted inspection on how they have used the funding.  

Commenting on the plans, David Laws said, ‘By committing this extra money to help the youngest disadvantaged children in society, we will ensure that they get the best possible start in life and have an opportunity to get on.

‘Investing in early years is one of the best ways to build the fairer society that Liberal Democrats want to see and we are ambitious about delivering for future generations. This extra investment will mean a huge amount of support for the people who need it most and demonstrates our strong commitment to education.’

4Children, which campaigned for a pupil premium for early years children, welcomed the pledge.

The charity’s head of public affairs Helen Berresford said, ‘Investing in some of the most vulnerable children at a young age is the most effective use of funds because it can transform their life chances.

‘We would like to see all the main political parties make a commitment to increase the Early Years Pupil Premium during the next Parliament so it at least matches the amount given to primary school-aged children. Early support is the key to narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.’

She added, ‘The focus of the Early Years Pupil Premium should be to prepare children for school by ensuring their physical development, mental wellbeing and communication skills are equal to their peers. The most vulnerable children are often lagging behind in these areas which can put them at a disadvantage before they have even begun their schooling.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'While the introduction of the current premium was a step in the right direction, at 53p per child per hour, it is likely to do little to address the current funding shortfall and will provide limited additional support to childcare providers.

'The sector has long argued that a significant increase in funding is needed if we are to ensure that all children, and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to access high-quality early years care and education.  As such, it is encouraging to see a political party openly recognising the need for, and value of, greater investment in the early years sector, and we hope this will be reflected in all party manifestos ahead of next year’s election.'

A Government consultation on the EYPP and funding for two-year-olds closed last week. It included proposals to encourage early years providers to employ more teachers to lead settings to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.