Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg with children at Church Street Nursery. Photo: Department for Education.
When the dust has settled from the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement I hope that one of the things that Liberal Democrats will remember will be the doubling of the offer of free early years education for two-year olds.
In last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review Nick Clegg announced that the 20% most disadvantaged families would be guaranteed 15 free hours of early education each week. The additional £650m announced today will extend that to 40% of families. This will mean that the 260,000 most disadvantaged two year-olds will benefit by the end of this Parliament.
The facts are well known – children from the poorest backgrounds start primary school already behind in their development, in their speech and language ability, and in their capacity to make the most of their school years.
The evidence is well known too – high quality early years education, alongside support from parents and family, can really make a difference in giving a child from a disadvantaged background a good start in life.
The Liberal Democrat Manifesto for the 2010 Election set out an aspiration to move to 20 hours of free childcare for every child from the age of 18 months, as the nation’s finances allowed. We made a start last year, now we’re going further.
It’s not an easy time for anyone. But for the 260,000 children given a fair start in life because the Liberal Democrats are in government, we will have made a lasting difference.