We must have fair provision for all

Calling for reform ... to ensure every child receives two years of pre-school education, regardless of birth date
Calling for reform ... to ensure every child receives two years of pre-school education, regardless of birth date

Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has called for an end to institutionalised age discrimination on pre-school education entitlement.

While commending the government’s commitment to early years education expansion, we want to highlight continuing birthday discrimination which means some children are entitled to almost a year’s less early years education than others.

It is unacceptable and unfair there is such a wide variation in entitlement

This urgent call forms part of a series of recommendations submitted by Reform Scotland to the Scottish Government’s consultation entitled “A blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland”.

Currently, the legal entitlement to government-funded nursery provision starts the term after a child turns three, meaning that, for example, a child born in August receives a full two years, or 1200 hours, of government-funded provision before starting school.

However, a child born in September will receive only 18 months, or 1000 hours and a child born in January 15 months, or 800 hours.

The financial disadvantage for families using partnership nurseries means a child born between September and December loses out by £700, while children born in January and February lose out by £1400 per annum.

The scale of the unfairness is set to climb further as the government makes further progress towards its aim of doubling the entitlement from 600 hours to 1200 hours per annum.

Reform Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to end this system of institutionalised discrimination and for all children to be given a basic legal entitlement of two full years pre-school provision, starting in the August two years before the child is due to start school – irrespective of their age at the time.

This would harmonise early years education provision with the primary school system, where each child is entitled to seven years of education, irrespective of their age at starting school.

With early years education playing such a vital role in a child’s educational development, it is unacceptable and unfair there is such a wide variation in entitlement. The Scottish Government has set a goal of closing the attainment gap.

However, many children start school already at a disadvantage and playing catch up, simply because they have not been given the same access to pre-school education.

While many factors contribute towards the attainment gap, it is unacceptable that one is a direct result of the Scottish Government’s birthday discrimination which could be so easily resolved.

Visit www.reformscotland.com for more information.