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Take-up of universal early years provision by disadvantaged families

Young girl painted hands
Researchers: Svetlana Speight
Published: January 2010

Aim

To analyse how the take-up of early years provision varies by different dimensions of disadvantage. To identify the main barriers experienced by disadvantaged families.

Findings

92% of eligible three- and four-year-olds received early years provision in 2008-2009

Children were less likely to receive early years provision if they:

  • came from lower-income and larger families (three or more children);
  • had mothers who did not work;
  • had mothers who did not have any academic qualifications.

The take-up of early years provision was the lowest in London compared to other regions of England.

Households with multiple disadvantages less likely to take up early years provision

Strong association between the level of multiple disadvantage experienced by families and their take-up of early years provision.

  • 13% of children in the most disadvantaged families were not attending any early years provision, compared to 3% of children in families experiencing no disadvantage.
  • In multiply disadvantaged households, 24% of three-year-olds were not receiving any early years provision – nearly five times the figure for four-year-olds (5%).
  • Mother’s educational level is also significant: 17% of children whose mothers had no academic qualifications were not receiving early years provision, compared to only 5% of children whose mothers had qualifications at A level or higher.

Lack of knowledge about local early years provision is a substantial barrier to take-up

Parents of 38% of children not attending any early years provision were not aware that the government paid for nursery.

Among families who were aware of the entitlement but were not using it, parents from the most disadvantaged families were much more likely to blame constraining factors (e.g. lack of places at local providers) than parents from less or non-disadvantaged families.

Methodology

Analysis of data from the 2008 and 2009 surveys in the Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents series.

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