Early Education

Print Friendly

Hand playing with toy train High quality early education sits alongside health as an important determinant of children’s life chances. All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education per week.


A growing number of disadvantaged 2 year olds are now accessing free early education and by 2014-15 this will be extended to 40% of 2 year olds. This will mean that around thirteen times more children should be able to access free early education at age 2 (260,000 children nationally). 



Eighteen local authorities are currently trialling new approaches to improving quality and capacity in the sector to respond – you can find out more via the Department for Education’s website.



A diverse range of providers deliver early education: childminders, nurseries, pre-schools and reception classes in the maintained, voluntary, private and independent sectors. Whilst each provider has their own unique systems and structures for doing this, all adhere to the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework unless exempted from the learning and development aspects by government.

Find out more (click to open)

  1. Pre-school Learning Alliance (PSLA) – PSLA is a leading early years membership organisation and one of the largest providers of quality childcare in England.
  2. National Childminding Association (NCMA) – NCMA is a professional membership organisation which aims to ensure families in every community in England and Wales have access to high quality home-based childcare, play, learning and family support.
  3. National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) – the national charity and membership association promoting best-quality care and early learning for children in nurseries across the UK. NDNA supports its members to develop their quality of care and to run a healthy sustainable business by providing members with information, training and support. NDNA works closely with its members to represent the sector to government, local authorities and the media.
  4. Montessori – The Montessori St Nicholas charity is a UK resource for information on Montessori education, teacher training and jobs. Montessori is a holistic approach to education and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child’s early years, from birth to age 6, is the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn. There are over 600 UK Montessori schools and 22,000 worldwide.
  5. Steiner – Steiner early years settings provide an unhurried and creative learning environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing.
  6. Independent Schools Council – the umbrella body serving the associations which represent 1,234 independent schools and educate more than 500,000 children in the UK, Ireland and overseas.
  7. Daycare Trust - A national childcare charity, campaigning for quality, accessible, affordable childcare for all and raising the voices of children, parents and carers.
  8. London Early Years Foundation – A childcare charity and social enterprise whose ambition is to build a better future for London’s children, families and local communities through a commitment to excellence in Early Years education, training and research.
  9. Busy Bees – Busy Bees Childcare provide children’s nurseries and daycare across the UK.
  10. Asquith Day Nurseries – Provide childcare in 81 settings.
  11. 4Children – From children’s centres to out of school clubs, childcare, play provision and parenting support, 4Children is at the forefront of delivery and supporting innovative children’s services.
  12. Action for Children – Helping to ensure children, families, and communities get the best start in life. Run over 120 projects throughout rural, urban and inner-city England, helping over 90,000 children and families get the early support they need.
  13. The Children’s Society – The Children’s Society runs several children’s centres in England that support children under 5 and their parents or carers. They assist families from all backgrounds including new migrant families, young parents and travelling families.
  14. Bertram Nursery Group – Caring for children in a fun, imaginative and stimulating learning environment.
  15. Bright Horizons – Bright Horizons Nurseries create safe, soothing and stimulating environments in which children can play, discover and develop all of the skills needed to become a confident, positive and well-rounded individual.
  16. Buffer Bear Nurseries – Helps every child enjoy the best possible start in life in a safe, friendly and lively nursery, staffed by professional and highly qualified carers.
  17. Casterbridge Nurseries – The ”Casterbridge Approach” puts children at the centre of our daily routines, enabling them to grow, learn and develop in an environment tailored to promote their happiness, security, capability and independence.
  18. Childbase – Each nursery follows a set of principles linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage. Particular focus is on the child centred approach which respects the needs and abilities of each individual child in their care.
  19. Happy Days Nurseries – Specialise in extending the emotional security parents offer at home into the nursery, to enable children to feel safe and secure at all times.
  20. Just Learning – Just Learning is one of the UK’s leading nursery providers, caring for children and working in partnership with parents since 1996.
  21. Kids 1st Day Nurseries – Kids 1st Nurseries aim to provide excellence in childcare across the North East of England.
  22. KidsUnlimited – Working for over 25 years to give babies and young children unlimited opportunities to learn and develop through imagination, creativity and play.
  23. Little Acorns Group - Provide quality and diversity of age-appropriate learning experiences and activities. An age-appropriate activity programme is provided throughout children’s nursery education.
  24. Toad Hall Nursery Group – Children benefit from a high quality early years experience and at Toad Hall the focus is on developing their early language and communication, their enjoyment of the outdoors and their ability to make friends and play well with other children.
  25. Treetops Nurseries – Treetops are a top 10 countrywide nursery group, who offer compassionate, professional care for children in a fun and loving environment. 

Mother showing child pinecone

Be part of the consultation


This autumn, the Department for Education will be consulting on changes to the code of practice that providers of free education are required to meet. The consultation will be asking you to consider a range of criteria that you will need to meet. Why not join us at the early education and childcare consultation events taking place around the country in November and December 2011.


Be prepared for the early education consultation by thinking about:

  • What quality criteria you would like to be used to fund providers delivering the free entitlements?
  • What you can do to ensure all disadvantaged 2 year olds in your area can access good quality early education?
Add a comment

Comments (2)

  1. Jo Goodall, December 1, 2011
    Look forward to receiving information Thank you
  2. Margaret Leeds, March 20, 2012
    2 year olds with disablilities identified at birth are disadavantaged regardless of their post code. They should be included in the Free for Two programme whatever their social circumstances. Also the new SEN Code of Practice may bring an end to Statutory Assessment and Statementing and providers may lose the associated funding for children with disabilities. Can we have a funding formula that takes gives providers extra financial support at differing levels to ensure we can meet the children's special educational needs?

Add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.