Impact of free early education by age seven 'unclear', audit report says | SchoolsWorld

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Impact of free early education by age seven 'unclear', audit report says

A recent report has revealed that although children’s development at the age of five has improved and the gap between the lowest achievers and their peers has narrowed, there has been hardly any change in the results for children at the end of Key Stage 1 since 2007, despite free early education for three-and four-year-olds.

National Audit Office

A recent report has revealed that although children’s development at the age of five has improved and the gap between the lowest achievers and their peers has narrowed, there has been hardly any change in the results for children at the end of Key Stage 1 since 2007, despite free early education for three-and four-year-olds.

The NAO's report, Delivering the free entitlement to education for three- and four-year-olds, looked at whether the Department for Education is providing value for money in delivering the offer. According to the NAO, the department does not yet have robust data to demonstrate whether the expected benefits of free early education makes any difference to children’s educational attainment.

The number of three-and- four-year-olds using the free entitlement continues to have a high national take-up rate but there are wide variations across England. It found that while around 95% of children have been accessing the free offer since 1998, take-up varies with take-up among the most disadvantaged families lower than overall take-up.

The DfE acknowledges that this is a problem. A 2010 survey found that take-up among disadvantaged three-and-four-year-olds was nine percentage points lower on average in 2008-09 than for other children, with poorer families less aware of the free offer.

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