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Government plan to expand preschools to accept two-year-olds attacked as ‘nonsensical’

‘The Government’s controversial plan for schools to expand to take two-year-olds in nurseries has been condemned as “nonsensical”, after official statistics revealed that the vast majority of schools do not plan to take part.

According to the statistics published by the Department for Education, only six per cent of primary school nursery classes currently offer funded two-year-old places – and of those that don’t, only 12 per cent plan to offer places in the future.

Ministers have argued that schools are ideally placed to provide extra childcare places for working parents and boost the performance of disadvantaged youngsters.

But the Pre-school Learning Alliance, an early years charity, highlighted the figures and called on the Government to stop the “disproportionate” focus on school nurseries, arguing that private daycare nurseries and childminders needed more support.

Neil Leitch, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The Government believes that encouraging more primary schools to take two-year-olds will support the expansion of the free entitlement offer, but these statistics clearly show that that is simply not the case. For the Government to continue to focus so heavily on promoting school nurseries as a source of provision for funded two-year-olds, therefore, is completely nonsensical.”

He argued that 96 per cent of two-year-olds currently receiving free childcare places were cared for either by private nurseries or childminders.

He added: “The Government should recognise the pivotal role of the private, voluntary and independent sector in the delivery of early years care and learning and look to build on this progress, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort on a school-focused approach that has little chance of succeeding.”

The Government has already expanded its free childcare scheme to provide 15 hours of free care a week to 40 per cent of all two-year-olds.

It has also legislated to remove “red tape” by make it easier for schools to expand by no longer requiring them to register with Ofsted before they take in two-year-olds.

The statistics – published in the Childcare and Early Years Providers Survey 2013 – revealed that only six per cent of primary schools with nursery and reception classes currently offer funded provision for two-year-olds, compared to 74 per cent of full daycare providers and 68 per cent of pre-schools.

Meanwhile, only one in eight (12 per cent) of primary schools with nursery and reception classes that do not currently deliver funded provision for two-year-olds plan to do so in the future, compared to 47 per cent of full daycare providers and 42 per cent of preschools.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “No child should start school behind their peers. This is why as part of our plan for education we are committed to providing flexible, affordable and good quality childcare, giving parents more choice about where they send their children.

“Schools are already providing more than 900,000 early years places – and we want more of these to offer funded two-year-old places to local families.

“We also want to encourage new childcare providers to enter the system, which is why we’re cutting bureaucracy to make it easier for new ones to open and for current ones to expand.” ‘

Article Source :  The Independent