Two: Equal access to early childhood education and care? The case of the UK

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in the UK, highlighting both developments over the past 15 years and remaining challenges. Using new data, it examines the social gradient in access to high quality provision within the free entitlement for three and four year olds, finding that children in more deprived areas are much more likely than children from better off areas to attend maintained settings, where staff include qualified teachers. However, outside the entitlement concerns remain about both access and quality. The authors explore the policy mechanisms in operation and offer suggestions for improvements, including expanding maintained nursery classes to deliver the entitlement (including for two year olds), raising and equalizing qualification levels across all settings, and extending supply side subsidies to cover younger children, to make care more affordable for parents.

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