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United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood Education and Care

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Overview United Kingdom (England)

Contents

United-Kingdom-England:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

United-Kingdom-England:Historical Development

United-Kingdom-England:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

United-Kingdom-England:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

United-Kingdom-England:Political and Economic Situation

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

United-Kingdom-England:Lifelong Learning Strategy

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Private Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Qualifications Framework

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Funding in Education

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Types of Higher Education Institutions

United-Kingdom-England:First Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Bachelor

United-Kingdom-England:Short-Cycle Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Second Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Distribution of Responsibilities

United-Kingdom-England:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

United-Kingdom-England:Main Providers

United-Kingdom-England:Main Types of Provision

United-Kingdom-England:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

United-Kingdom-England:Teachers and Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Management and Other Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Educational Support and Guidance

United-Kingdom-England:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

United-Kingdom-England:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility and Internationalisation

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

United-Kingdom-England:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in School Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

United-Kingdom-England:European Perspective

United-Kingdom-England:Legislation

United-Kingdom-England:Glossary

The focus of this chapter is on provision for children aged two and three. Some of the information also applies to children under the age of two. For four-year-olds who are in the reception class of primary school, see also the chapter on Primary Education.

Entitlements and legal framework
For children aged three and four, there is an entitlement to 15 hours of free provision per week over 38 weeks of the year. 

Entitlement to a funded early education place was first introduced in 1998. Prior to this, availability varied greatly from one area to another. When introduced, the entitlement applied to four-year-olds for 2.5 hours per day for 33 weeks each year. It was extended to three-year-olds in 2004 and the number of hours was increased to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks by 2010.

For two-year-olds, there is no universal entitlement, but children from disadvantaged families are eligible for 15 hours of free provision per week over 38 weeks of the year. The entitlement was introduced in 2013 for around 20 per cent of the age group and extended to around 40 per cent from 2014.

The legal framework for these entitlements is provided by the Childcare Act 2006. Section 7 of the Act (as substituted by section 1 of the Education Act 2011) places a duty on local authorities to secure early years provision free of charge. Regulations made under section 7 set out the type and amount of free provision and the children who benefit from the free provision.  These duties are set out in statutory guidance for local authorities.

The Childcare Act 2016 extends the entitlement for all three- and four-year olds whose parents are in employment from 15 to 30 hours weekly from September 2017. The aim is to make childcare more affordable for working parents. 

Alongside the duty to secure free provision, the Childcare Act 2006 places local authorities under a duty to secure sufficient childcare, so far as is reasonably practicable, to enable parents in their respective areas to work. This duty, which is explained in statutory guidance for local authorities, does not mean that childcare should be directly funded or subsidised. However, parents whose income is below a certain level are eligible for extra tax credits to help pay for childcare costs. These arrangements are explained in the Government’s guidance for parents

Local authorities are also under a number of wider statutory duties under the Childcare Act 2006, including:

  • a duty to improve the well-being of young children in the area and to reduce inequalities
  • a secure sufficient provision of children’s centres to meeting local need, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • a duty to make arrangements to provide early childhood services in an integrated manner. 

Children’s centres (sometimes known as Sure Start children’s centres) are a principal means through which local authorities meet these wider duties, as explained by the Government’s statutory guidance on Sure Start children’s centres. Early childhood services are defined as: early education and childcare; social services functions of the local authority relating to young children, parents and prospective parents; health services relating to young children, parents and prospective parents; training and employment services to assist parents or prospective parents; information and advice services for parents and prospective parents. Early childhood services are provided either at the children’s centre itself or by providing advice and assistance in accessing services provided elsewhere. 

All children are entitled to a full-time school place from the September term following their fourth birthday, in accordance with the School Admissions Code. Places are in the reception class (ISCED 0). Entitlement to a part-time place with other providers ends when a child takes up a place in the reception class.

Compulsory full-time education starts at age five, in accordance with the Education Act 1996.

Providers
Early childhood education and care places are provided in different types of setting:

Early Years Foundation Stage Framework
The phase of education and care spanning the period from birth to age five is known in England as the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The different types of setting operate within a common framework, the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is given legal force by regulations made under the Childcare Act 2006. The Framework sets out the requirements for learning and development in terms of: 

  • areas of learning and development (educational programmes) 
  • early learning goals
  • assessment arrangements.

The Framework also specifies the safeguarding and welfare requirements that providers must meet to keep children safe and promote their welfare.

Participation
Participation in the early years foundation stage is voluntary but most children attend some form of pre-school or nursery education, either full- or part-time, with very few children remaining at home until the start of compulsory education (the term following their fifth birthday).

In January 2015, 99 per cent of all four-year-olds, 94 per cent of all three-year-olds and 58 per cent of eligible disadvantaged two-year-olds participated in funded early education. Participation rates for the 3- and 4-year-old population per type of provider are as follows:

Provider
 % of 3-year-olds
 % of 4-year-olds
Private and voluntary
60
19
Childminders
1
-
Independent schools
2
2
Maintained nursery schools
4
2
Nursery classes in primary schools
31
13
Infant classes in primary schools
-
62
State-funded secondary schools
-
1
Special schools
-
-
All providers
98
99

Source: Provision for children under 5 years of age: January 2015 SFR20/2015, Figure B, page 5.

 

Terms used in this article are explained in the glossary. Legislation cited in this article is listed in legislation.

Article last reviewed April 2016.