By Ludovica Gambaro, Kitty Stewart, Jane Waldfogel
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Additional resources for An Equal Start?: Providing Quality Early Education and Care for Disadvantaged Children
To part-time preschool means that nearly all three- and four-yearolds have some exposure to ECEC, but concerns remain about access beyond the entitlement and about the quality of provision. Financial support is only available to those in work, and even then it is only a partial subsidy, with parents having to pay at least 30% of the cost of a place. With regard to quality, staff qualifications in the UK – in particular, in the large private, voluntary and independent sector – are low in comparison to other countries, and there is evidence that lowincome children are particularly likely to attend low quality provision in that sector.
In practice, however, local authorities have generally been reluctant to deliver the offer through childminders and, in England, fewer than 1% of three-year-olds receive the entitlement in a homebased setting (Gambaro et al, 2013). For children younger than three, there is very little publicly provided provision. 4 Thus, ECEC for the under threes is largely delivered either in PVI settings or by childminders, and parents have to pay for it. At the time of writing, a small number of disadvantaged two-year-olds are offered a free place for 15 hours a week in settings which are judged as offering good quality provision, and the government plans to extend the offer to 130,000 disadvantaged children in September 2013.
Young children with a migration background are much less likely than their peers to be enrolled both before and after age three, in spite of the entitlement to provision from three upwards. The next two chapters turn to New Zealand and Australia. Helen May chronicles the remarkable changes in ECEC policy that have occurred in New Zealand over the past few decades, with the establishment of a universal entitlement to preschool for three- and four-year-olds, subsidies for children under the age of three and a commitment to quality that included the goal of having 100% of staff in the sector be qualified teachers.