Protect early years funding to keep quality and access for disadvantaged children

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Social mobility must be at the heart of the general election campaign, the Sutton Trust says today, starting with the early years.

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The Sutton Trust welcomes the expansion of childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds, but is concerned that the poorest families may miss out as the free entitlement expands

The education charity’s Mobility Manifesto, published today, warns that any efforts to improve social mobility must begin before children start school.

While the report welcomes early education for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds and the expansion of the free entitlement, it is concerned that the greater focus on childcare could see poorer toddlers missing out.

It calls for a guarantee that all disadvantaged children have access to the best early years education by protecting educational funding and resources at this vital stage, and ensuring that it is provided by well qualified staff in all settings, and particularly in those working with disadvantaged children.

All practitioners and childminders should have access to qualifications and ongoing professional development ‘which adequately prepares them to meet the needs of disadvantaged toddlers and their families’, it says.

The report also recommends that the Early Years Pupil Premium should be extended so that it enables all settings to make the most of evidence-based interventions.

Free places should also be linked with parenting programmes ‘to engage parents or carers and empower them to be their child’s first educator,’ it says.

Health visitors and other children’s services should play a stronger role in supporting attachment and parenting from birth.

Previous research by the Trust found a 19-month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest tenth of children.

The manifesto sets out ten practical and evidence-based policies designed to address issues affecting Britain’s low levels of social mobility.

Other recommendations for political parties ahead of the election include:

  • take steps to make grammar and comprehensive school admissions fairer for pupils from low-income families;
  • set up a national programme to support the most-able learners in maintained schools and academies, backed by Government ring-fenced funding;
  • ensure that there are more good advanced and higher apprenticeships, with automatic progression for young people starting on lower levels”
  • make the quality of classroom teaching the top priority in schools, with effective appraisals and a guaranteed entitlement to good quality training for all teachers;
  • ban unpaid internships that last longer than four weeks.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said, ‘There is a clear recognition by all the main political parties that we need to do a lot more to improve social mobility. ‘Today’s ten-point manifesto gives them evidence-based and practical ideas that could turn this consensus into radical change.

‘Our recommendations range from giving all disadvantaged children access to the best early years education to ensuring that there are many more high quality advanced and higher level apprenticeships. Importantly, we need to intervene at every stage of a young person’s life, from before school starts, to university and beyond.’

  • Read the Mobility Manifesto here.
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