Widening the Gap – 30 hours funding

Closing the GapClosing the Gap has become a bit of catchphrase in Early Years recently, it seems if you want to justify anything you can use it as a good reason.  Gap could mean anything after all, and closing it could be anything from 1% different to 100%.  And yet it sounds so good, for example 30 hours funding is a fantastic way of Closing the Gap, isn’t it?

The answer is apparently not, if the gap you were hoping to close was the one between poorer children and their peers.  Recent reports have suggested that children are more likely to access their 15 hours entitlement if they are have working parents – not entirely surprising as these children would be in childcare anyway and therefore the parents automatically start receiving the benefit.  But this means that children who would be attending nurseries anyway are the ones to benefit – increasing the gap between them and their poorer peers.  The move to 30 hours is aimed at working parents and is starting to look like it will only increase this worrying trend.  The pilot for the 30 hours of funding has hinted at an increased rate for the second 15 hours for example, meaning nurseries (in order to survive) will preferentially take ’30 hour children’ from working backgrounds.

So, with children of wealthier parents set to gain more from the government’s drive to reduce unemployment, what can we be doing to help close the attainment gap?  As the uptake of places is high and only set to get higher, the short answer is very little at our end.  It all comes down to money – if the government can provide enough funding for nurseries to truly offer 30 hours free childcare to parents, then we can give all young children the best possible start to life – no matter what their background.

About the author: Matt Stanford

Matt Stanford
Matt has been working in education for 10 years, teaching science to all ages from preschool to degree. Before he became a teacher he studied chemistry at Masters level and completed his PhD at The University of Warwick. It was during his time at university that he got involved in outreach work in local primary schools and found his passion for inspiring learning.

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