In 2013 the government introduced 15 hours of funded childcare a week for disadvantaged two-year-old children in England. The aims of the policy were to improve the quality of education for disadvantaged children and encourage the best providers to expand into disadvantaged areas. However, the latest evidence suggests that the scheme has had little impact on reducing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children.
If the pattern of attendance found in our partner local authorities is similar across England, we estimate that there could be as many as 16 million hours per year of missed early childhood education and care for disadvantaged two year olds who are enrolled in the government’s funded scheme but do not attend. If we include the hours missed by eligible children whose families don’t take up the two-year-old-offer, disadvantaged children in England could be missing out on as many as 45 million hours of early childhood education and care (ECEC) per year. Without new efforts from central government and more support for local authorities and the childcare sector, the two-year-old offer risks failing to fulfil its potential as a tool for closing educational disadvantage.