Despite government rhetoric about closing the gap and helping the ‘just about managing’, its policies are quite clearly acting in the opposite direction.
Children’s centres are being axed and diminished, and funding cuts mean that early help services are not affordable, leading to spending being directed at crisis support instead. The roll-out of Universal Credit has thrown more families into desperate circumstances, rather than helping them.
Although policies aim to get more people into work to lift them out of disadvantage, the problem of poverty for in-work households is substantial.
And the 30 hours programme is helping better-off families and shutting out the most in need, while under-funding of the ‘free’ hours hits quality and capacity.
At the same time, there is dismay that the latest Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results show a continuing attainment gap between more and less advantaged pupils.
And the solution – this seems to be little more than a rigorous programme of synthetic phonics and a push towards ever-more formal approaches to early learning, as evidenced by the Ofsted report into reception teaching and Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s recent pronouncements.
Even if this was the right direction to go (and you can read plenty of opposing views in this issue and online), regular phonics sessions are hardly going to counter the forces entrenching inequality and disadvantage in our society.