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New Ofsted/ONS analysis prompts concern about equality of early years access

by Shannon Pite and Jess Gibson

New joint analysis from Ofsted and the Ofsted for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed significant disparities between availability of early years settings across England. 

The research 鈥 which was conducted in 2023 and was limited to Ofsted-registered nursery, pre-school and childminding settings 鈥 calculated the accessibility of settings between neighbourhoods across England. Accessibility to early education and childcare was calculated as an equivalent number of places per 100 children aged birth to seven years. 

Results from this approach demonstrated that 90% of local authorities with the highest number of early years places in England, 2023, were in the most affluent areas 鈥 such as St Albans, Cambridge and Rushcliffe. South Ribble was the only exception to this trend. 

In contrast, local authorities with the lowest levels of access to early years settings tended to be in less affluent areas, with 60% falling in the lowest 10% of local authorities. 

The analysis also shows that areas with lower access to early education and childcare have a higher proportion of children living in poverty, leading to concern among the early years sector about the overall equality of access. 

Sector leaders have warned that current government policy risks preventing many families from being able to access suitable early education and childcare in their local area. 

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years 王中王开奖结果, said: 鈥淲e're clear that all children, regardless of their background, should be able to access high-quality care and education. 

鈥淚t鈥檚 incredibly concerning, therefore, to see such a significant disparity between families living in less affluent areas 鈥 with lower disposable incomes 鈥 and their wealthier counterparts when it comes to the availability of early years places. 

鈥 鈥淲ith the majority of government schemes currently focused on supporting working families, unless we see an urgent shift in early years policy focus, there is a real danger of a whole generation of children from more disadvantaged backgrounds being left behind 鈥 despite the wealth of research showing that they are the children likely to benefit the most from access to a quality early education. 

鈥淚t鈥檚 vital, therefore, that whoever forms the next government, ensuring that all families have equal access to affordable, quality care and education 鈥 regardless of where they live or how much disposable income they have 鈥 is made a policy priority. If politicians are truly serious about closing the attainment gap, there is no better place to start than in the early years."