It is one of a number of recommendations within the Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report 2016, laid before Parliament today, which warns that Britain’s deep social mobility problem is getting worse.
The commission found that children in deprived areas are twice as likely to be in childcare that is not good enough, compared with the most prosperous areas.
As such, it is recommending the Government double funding for the early years pupil premium (EYPP) to ensure better childcare for those that need it most.
Currently settings receive up to £300 per year for each eligible three- and four-year-old. This compares to £1,320 for pupils in reception to Year 6.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance broadly recommended the move to increase the EYPP, but said to have a significant impact on ‘deep social mobility issues’ greater investment in the early years sector as a whole is needed.
The State of the Nation 2016 report also found that middle-income families (an annual income of around £22,500), as well as the poorest in society are being held back. It says that these ‘treadmill’ families are running harder and harder, but are standing still.
As well as a social divide, there is also a geographical divide between the big cities - London especially - and many towns and countries across the country.
Other key findings of the report include:
- In the last decade, 500,000 children were not school-ready by age five;
- Families where both parents are highly educated spend on average around 110 minutes a day on educational activities with their young children compared to 71 minutes a day for those with low education. This compares with around 20 to 30 minutes a day in the 1970s when there was no significant difference between the groups of parents;
- A child living in one of England’s most disadvantaged areas is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child in the most advantaged;
The Commission is now calling on the Government to set a clear objective that by 2025, every child should be school ready by the age of five, along with the introduction of a new parental support package at key points in a child’s life to support children failing behind.
Also included within the report are recommendations for Government on schools, jobs, careers and earnings and housing – areas which the Commission says are fundamental barriers to social mobility.
Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said, ‘The rungs on the social mobility ladder are growing further apart. It is becoming harder for this generation of struggling families to move up.
‘The social divisions we face in Britain today impact many more people and places than the very poorest in society or the few thousands youngsters who miss out on a top university. Whole sections of society and whole tracts of Britain feel left behind.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, For far too long, early years providers have been asked to deliver high-quality early education and care on consistently inadequate funding - and while the Government has repeatedly emphasised its commitment to improving children’s life chances, as yet, its actions have not matched its rhetoric.
‘Research shows that for every £1 spent on early years education, £7 has to be spent in adolescence to have the same impact. If the Government is really serious about improving social mobility and closing the gap, it must invest where it will have the most impact: the early years.’
Mr Leitch went on to say that while the Alliance supports the recommendation to improve children’s outcomes, it is concerned by the ongoing emphasis on ‘school-readiness’ in early years policy discussions.
‘Every child develops at their own rate, and so we need to be making sure that schools are ready for our children – and to support their individual learning and development needs – rather than the other way around’, he said.
Commenting on the State of the Nation 2016 report, Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said, 'If we’re going to help ‘treadmill’ or ‘just managing’ families, then the Government should use next week’s Autumn Statement to reverse the sizeable cuts in Universal Credit, which target these families rather than carry on spending money on policies that overwhelmingly benefit the better off. The Prime Minister’s fine words must be matched by equally good deeds.'