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Pre-School Education

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what his most recent estimate is of participation rates in early years education, broken down by social class; and if he will make a statement. (187145)

Since April 2004 all three and four-year-olds have been entitled to a free part-time early education place for 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. From 2010, this offer will be extended from 12.5 to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

Figures for January 2007 show that virtually all four-year-old children receive some form of free entitlement. The figure for three-year-olds is 96 per cent.

The latest figures on early education places for three and four-year-olds in England were published in Statistical First Release (SFR) 19/2007 “Provision for children under five years of age in England: January 2007”, available on my Department’s website:

The 2007 Parents’ Childcare Survey collected information about take-up of the free entitlement for three and four-year-olds to 12.5 hours of formal child care per week, by child and family characteristics, enabling an estimate of the proportion of three to four-year-olds who had taken-up this entitlement by social class, using the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) to be made. The findings from the 2007 survey are planned to be published shortly.

Comparable estimates are not available for earlier years as specific questions about the take-up of the free entitlement to early years education for three and four-year-olds were not asked in previous surveys. The 2004 survey showed that take up of any early years provision (which would include the free entitlement, as well as other early years education) was lower among more disadvantaged groups. For example, 80 per cent. of three and four-year-olds in families with an annual income of below £10,000 used any early years provision, compared with 95 per cent. of those in families with income above £32,000.