Schools, nurseries and childminders will receive extra funding to help disadvantaged infants catch up with their peers, the government announced today.
Three and four-year-olds from low-income families will attract an additional £300 in funding to help close the attainment gap by the time the start school.
Trials of the early years pupil premium (EYPP) will start in seven areas in January 2015 and the funding will be introduced nationwide from April 2015.
The announcement comes after it was revealed that children from disadvantaged families are already behind their classmates by the age of five – with just 53 per reaching a good level of development in June 2014 compared to 65 per cent of other children.
Nurseries will be able to decide how to use the extra cash to help three and four year olds develop – whether it is through specialist staff or activities focusing on areas such as speech and language.
The announcement follows a consultation on the EYPP, which received widespread backing from respondents.
Primary pupils on free school meals already receive an extra £1,300 each, while it is £935 per secondary student.
But Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, warned that £300 per child was not enough.
"We remain supportive of the EYPP and welcome plans to implement the premium in April 2015," he said. "That said, while this extra funding is a step in the right direction, it is still only a small step...an additional 53p per hour for eligible children is likely to have limited practical or tangible impact on provision."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “It is vital that we intervene at the earliest possible stage and do all we can to help young children develop and learn.
“I’m so proud that we’ve been able to deliver this Early Years Pupil Premium so that toddlers from the poorest families get the support they need, which will pay dividends later in life.
“In my view, this will be one of the great legacies of this government, helping create a fairer society which benefits families up and down the country.”
Ofsted will check providers receiving funding to see how they are making use of the money and how children’s outcomes are improving.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity which funds trials into ideas aimed at closing the gap between poor children and others, will now include educational research covering early years on its website and will be funding research in the area.
Dr Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “There is extensive research demonstrating the existence of an attainment gap in the early years, the impact of this gap on later educational outcomes, and the value of high-quality early years provision for disadvantaged pupils.
“The new Early Years Pupil Premium increases the amount of support available for children from low income families, but its impact will depend on how well it is spent.”
Earlier this week Sam Gyimah, childcare and education minister, said he wanted to see more schools getting involved in nursery care to give children a boost early in life. He added that schools could do this by working with existing private, independent and voluntary providers.
Sharp rise in number of five-year-olds developing well at school 16 October 2014
Pupil Premium Awards celebrate success at leading schools 25 June 2014
Early years education must be an election priority, say campaigners 23 April 2014