Last reviewed 26 November 2021

New research has highlighted the need for the urgent reform of the 30-hour funded childcare scheme to improve access to early education for disadvantaged children.

The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) has called on the Government to change its policy of restricting 30 hours of funded childcare to working families. Currently, only three and four-year-olds with working parents can access 30 hours a week of childcare, whereas disadvantaged families are eligible for just 15 hours per week.

During the pandemic, the LEYF offered disadvantaged three and four-year-olds an additional 15 hours of funded childcare through its Doubling Down programme. Their research found that these additional hours resulted in significant progress in children’s learning and development, across personal, social and emotional development (PSED) as well as communication and language skills. The programme also helped struggling families stay afloat and resulted in improved health and wellbeing for parents.

The research also found:

  • over 70% of parents and staff saw a positive impact on children’s communication skills, social development and behaviour

  • a profound positive impact on the mood, sleep, empathy, school readiness and nutritious eating amongst children

  • a reduction in the amount of screen time, especially as many of the children had spent months living in high-rise flats with no access to a garden or opportunities to play outdoors

  • staff morale also benefited because practitioners felt they had more time to support vulnerable children’s learning and development effectively.

The LEYF is now calling on both the Government and global investors to provide £165 million of urgent funding to bridge the initial shortfall and widen access to the current 30-hour childcare scheme. Without this, LEYF warns that progress in closing attainment gaps will diminish, with potentially devastating consequences for the 1.3 million children aged under five who live in poverty in the UK.

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said:

“Today’s research adds yet more weight to the case for expanding access to 30 hours of funded early years education. It’s a national scandal that the poorest three and four-year olds are locked out of these crucial opportunities, simply because their parents don’t earn enough.

“We wouldn’t accept the state providing longer school hours for well-off families, and we shouldn’t accept it in the early years. If we want to make our school system fairer, it needs to begin with giving every child the foundation to succeed at school.”