‘Councils criticise early education funding plan’

Council chiefs have attacked Government plans to ring-fence funding for early education for two-year olds, claiming the decision removes local discretion in deciding which children should benefit.

Under a detailed funding package announced by the Department for Education today, councils are in line to receive a basic rate of £5.09 per two-year old child in their area.

By 2015, the Coalition hopes to be providing support covering 260,000 children in England, roughly 40% of all two-year-olds. Funding will gradually increase over the course of the spending review period – from £291m in 2012/13 to £534m in 2013-14 and £760m in 2014-15 – to allow authorities to build capacity.

In the current financial year, cash is being allocated to local authorities through the Early Intervention Grant, allowing them to make their own choices about how much to spend on local needs and priorities.

But Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people’s board said it should not be down to Whitehall to stipulate the criteria for identifying which children are eligible for free early education from September 2014.

‘Councils know he needs of local children best and it should be down to their discretion to decide which children benefit from he increase in provision,’ Cllr Simmons said. ‘By taking the funding for free education for two-year olds into the ring-fenced dedicated schools grant, the Government is further restricting councils’ ability to prioritise locally.’

According to Simmonds, when set against the top slice of £150m for the next two years from the Early Intervention Grant, the decision to ring-fence the funding into the dedicated schools grant represents a ‘substantial reduction in the resources councils can use for early intervention services.’

However, Anne Longfield, chief executive of national charity 4Children, approved education secretary Michael Gove’s emphasis on transparency in funding arrangements. ‘In the Budget it is essential that the chancellor prioritises funding for early intervention as we know this makes a real difference to children and families,’ said Ms Longfield.

 

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