Sarah Teather MP writes… More two-year olds to get free early education, thanks to Lib Dems in Government

Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg visit Church Street Nursery
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.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Heather Cullen 29th Nov '11 - 10:18pm

    Interesting news. Does anyone know what income level (if that is how they measure deprivation) is required for people to be classed as in the bottom 40%?

  • Nice try, Sarah.
    However, “When the dust has settled from the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement”, the thing I will most remember is how, when George Osborne reneged on his pledge on ‘Child Poverty’ (a pledge that LibDems lauded as proof that they were ‘making a difference’), it was a LibDem (Danny Alexander) who was paraded on BBC’s PM programme to defend breaking the promise.

    Still, what’s one more promise?

  • Margaret Rutter 30th Nov '11 - 12:18pm

    I am of the view that it takes but a few moments for a parent to call into a libary and borrow early years learning books and spending just 30 minutes a day teaching a child from theses books is not to much to ask of a parent, or is it?
    What we should be teaching is that befor being a parent thought should be given to the time needed in bringing them up, to the example you set them, to your ability to provide a stable home and environment.
    Education should be spent on adults and pensioners to develop their education standards and ability to provide for their their family and grandchildren and pass on their improved knowledge and life experience. After all it is these people who set the example to children.

  • Ruth Bright 30th Nov '11 - 3:07pm

    Margaret – surely it’s both individual parental attention and communal activity that children over two need? This policy is right to recognise that.

  • I think this is a welcome development. Children really benefit from spending some time in these places. There they have access to a greater variety of toys and space than an individual parent can provide, plus they can play with a group of children their own age, which is not something all children can do at home. At the age of 24-36 months – children are not really being taught to read, but will start to recognise their own name for example. It also helps to build communities – providing mothers and fathers with connections with others in their area. I’m not really convinced that this initiative will do that much to help mothers get back to work sooner, but it will help some people considerably at the margins, where for example there is a grandparent who is providing some childcare but cannot currently cover enough time to make a parent’s job a practical proposition.

  • helen dudden 1st Dec '11 - 12:01am

    I wonder what the Lib Dems thought about the rights of grandparents? There were comments on family. I think that there are some things that could be done for free, as the above, this was promised by David Cameron.

  • Helen Dudden 16th Feb '12 - 3:44pm

    So pleased that the Government has decided it will be looking to help those in family breakdowns. When a child is happy with life it becomes less of a problem to society.

  • Helen Dudden 19th Apr '12 - 11:08pm

    I should like to see improvements on the subject of non-returns of children under the Hague Convention. It is costly trying to get access, when a child has been abducted to another country. Children suffer badly, they very often end up very unhappy and find life difficult to cope with.

    I would like to see the Task Force put into practice as suggested by a pro bono report, back in 2006 for the EU. More Mediation, this works very well with the legal situation in place,

    When I became involved in a family problem, I began to study law never understanding until then, just how large the problems were and how many children were taken in this way.

    I would like to see much more done to help those who struggle with this very unhappy situation. I should like to see pressure put on Government to make theae changes happen. Most of these children have been through the English court system.

    Kind regards,
    Helen Dudden.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd May '12 - 9:48pm

    For so long I have complained about the situation with the non returns, under the Hague Convention, I just cant get a reply from the Government on this problem.

    It gets larger, not smaller, it must be someones responsibility.

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