From September 2013, children from families meeting the criteria also used to decide eligibility for free school meals, and looked after children, will be eligible – this will be around 20 per cent of all two-year-olds in England, although the percentage will vary from area to area. From September 2014, we will introduce new eligibility criteria, so that in total some 260,000 children in England (around 40 per cent of all two-year-olds) will be eligible. We shall consult in due course on the proposed criteria to apply from September 2014.
The Department is nationally investing £291 million in 2012-13; £534 million in 2013-14; and £760 million in 2014-15. This gradual increase of funding is to allow authorities time to build quality and capacity, particularly in disadvantaged areas. In 2012-13 this funding is being allocated to local authorities through the Early Intervention Grant, and they will make their own decisions about how much to spend on their local needs and priorities.
The Department has retained £5 million to support local authorities with delivery in 2012-13.
From 2013-14 funding for two-year-olds will be included within the Dedicated Schools Grant – this means that it is ring-fenced for spending on education.
The Government believes that local authorities should be free to take their own decisions about how much to spend on their local needs and priorities. This is why there are no ringfences within the Early Intervention Grant. Local authorities will recognise the need to increase investment in early education for two-year-olds over the next two years as we build towards a duty to provide free places for 20 per cent of two-year-olds from 2013-14 and then 40 per cent of two-year-olds from 2014-15.
The Department recognises that there is a cost associated with the delivery of the two-year-old entitlement and has therefore made additional funding available through the EIG. The EIG remains unringfenced and it is for each local authority to determine how to fund the programme from its available resources.
There is enough funding in the Early Intervention Grant to deliver free places for disadvantaged two-year-olds and to support it with effective outreach. Sure Start Children's Centres should play a lead role in promoting the free entitlement to the parents of two-, three- and four-year-olds as well as supporting families so that those who stand to benefit most take full advantage.
Local authorities are free to configure and deliver the free places to disadvantaged two-year-olds in response to local need. All 152 local authorities have been delivering a targeted offer to some of their most disadvantaged two-year-olds since September 2009, and they will have learnt a great deal from this experience. Local authorities can refer to the evaluation documents from the pilot when making their decisions.
There are no targets and local authorities are free to make their own funding decisions for the next two years. Nationally, the number of funded places will increase from around 20,000 to around 260,000 by the end of the spending period.
The Department has published estimates of the number of two-year-olds who will be eligible in each local area. Local authorities should use other information, such as numbers of school age children taking free school meals, when planning how many places will be needed.
Local authorities are experienced in offering free places for two-, three- and four-year-olds, and understand the connection between quality and outcomes for children. We anticipate that they will want to draw on this expertise when making funding decisions about which providers are able to offer free places to disadvantaged two-year-olds.
Eighteen local authorities are trialling approaches to improving the capacity and quality of provision for two-year-olds. More information about the trials can be found on the early learning for disadvantaged two-year-olds pages.
The EIG is not ringfenced and local authorities are free to spend the grant to best meet local needs and priorities. The only condition of the grant is that it is used in support of lawful expenditure.
A Bill to make provision about education, childcare, apprenticeships and training.