Last reviewed 30 June 2022

A new report by the Times Education Commission sets out key recommendations for the early years sector including a significant funding boost.

The Commission was set up in June 2021 to examine Britain’s whole education system and consider its future in the light of the Covid-19 crisis, declining social mobility, new technology and the changing nature of work.

Following a year-long inquiry, the report sets out a 12-point plan for the education system including new proposals for the early years. The Commission heard from more than 600 witnesses, including leaders in education, business and the arts, as well as two former prime ministers and 12 former education secretaries.

In its recommendations on the early years, the report proposes:

  • giving every child a “school readiness card” at the end of nursery, describing their skills and development

  • extending the 30-hour entitlement to non-working parents to ensure that the children with the least support at home get it in a professional setting

  • a significant boost to early years funding

  • bringing the early years pupil premium rate in line with the rates primary schools receive

  • providing all children with a unique pupil number at birth, along with their NHS number, to encourage greater data-sharing between education, health and social services

  • a better career structure, professional development and training for early years teachers to develop a well-qualified workforce with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to deliver high-quality early education.

Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:   

“Today’s Times Education Commission report highlights the pressing need for the Government to tackle the growing gap in inequalities in education, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“EPI welcomes a number of recommendations in the report which reflect findings from our own evidence. These include significantly increasing funding in the early years, improving mental health and wellbeing support in schools and colleges, extending the Pupil Premium to cover children who have a child protection plan in place, ensuring all children have access to a digital device, increasing post-16 funding and raising the status of the teaching profession.”

“Our research has found that, prior to the pandemic, the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers stood at over 18 months by age 16 and was widening. If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’ it must tackle, with urgency, evidence-based interventions which will help to close the gap. A concerted strategy that tackles poverty as well as education and health inequalities is crucial.”