Defeating disadvantage

Children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau looks at how disadvantaged two-year-olds are being supported in England...

At the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), we’ve been working with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to explore how free education for disadvantaged two-year-olds is being delivered in eight different localities.

The research is based on interviews with Local Authority representatives and childcare providers, identified both challenges and good practice in managing and providing support, and looked at the pilot programme that has provided free early education to some disadvantaged two-year-olds in England. This programme aims to improve disadvantaged children’s social and cognitive learning so that by the age of five they’re as ready as their more advantaged peers to start and fully benefit from school. Subject to Parliament, from 2013 every disadvantaged two-year-old will have a legal entitlement to a set level of part-time early education.

Our study, which was funded by the Department for Education, found that currently the preferred means for Local Authorities to identify those most likely to benefit from the programme was to use local intelligence and professionals’ knowledge of local families. However, a particularly effective strategy for targeting the programme would be based on birth data complemented by information provided by professionals delivering a universal service (e.g. health visitors).

Our research also found that Local Authorities valued flexibility in using funding as it enabled them to make taking up the programme more attractive to local childcare providers and parents, for example, by funding training and specialist support. The evidence also indicated that the ability to deliver the range of support families need was largely dependent on the availability of children’s centres, which played a key role in providing and coordinating family support.

You can read the full report at Visit the NCB at