3 and 4-year-olds
All 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of government-funded early years provision a year. This is typically taken as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year (though it is also possible to take fewer hours over more weeks). This is also known as the universal entitlement and aims to support child development and school readiness.
Children aged 4 taking up a place in a state-funded reception class receive their entitlement through reception class provision and as such are included in the number and percentage of children registered for the 15-hour entitlement.
The take-up rates for 3 and 4-year-olds are calculated based on population estimates derived from mid-year estimates and projections produced by the Office for National Statistics.
2-year-olds are eligible for the 15-hour entitlement if their parents are in receipt of certain income-related benefits. 2-year-olds are also eligible for non-economic reasons including if they have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan, receive disability living allowance, are looked after by a local authority, or have left care under an adoption, special guardianship, or child arrangements order.
The number of 2-year-olds eligible for the 15-hour entitlement reported in these statistics is estimated using the number of households with 2-year-olds that are in receipt of income-related benefits but excludes children eligible for other reasons. Therefore, the true number of 2-year-olds eligible is under-estimated.
As this estimate is used to calculate the percentage of eligible 2-year-olds registered, in turn the true percentage is over-estimated. However, the size of this over-estimate is expected to be small given that most 2-year-olds registered for the 15-hour entitlement are recorded as meeting the eligibility criteria for economic reasons (97% in 2022).
Early years pupil premium
Children aged 3 and 4 registered for the 15-hour entitlement are eligible for early years pupil premium (EYPP) funding if their parents are in receipt of certain income-related benefits, if they are looked after by a local authority, or if they have left care under an adoption, special guardianship, or child arrangements order.
Further detail is available in the background section of the methodology note.
In 2022, an estimated 72% of eligible 2-year-olds were registered for the 15-hour entitlement. This equals the highest previously recorded percentage in 2018.
For 3 and 4-year-olds, 92% were registered for the 15-hour entitlement; conversely, this was the second-lowest take-up rate (the lowest being in 2021) since measurement began in 2011.
The effect of COVID-19 uncertainty on providers and parents, particularly during the lockdown period in January 2021, explains the decrease in the number of children registered for the 15-hour entitlement in 2021. Some reversal of that uncertainty explains the subsequent increase in 2022, though the number of children registered remains less than in 2020 for all ages.
These figures should also be considered alongside sizeable declines in the relevant populations. Birth rates have decreased in recent years, affecting population estimates for each age group, and this will likely have contributed to falls in the numbers registered between 2020 and 2022.
For 2-year-olds specifically, there has been a further decrease in the eligible population as the fall in parents of 2-year-olds receiving legacy benefits which Universal Credit has replaced hasn't been offset by the rise in those receiving Universal Credit. In addition, the maximum income thresholds for the eligibility criteria have remained unchanged in recent years whilst average incomes have increased. As a result, between 2020 and 2022, the number eligible for the entitlement has decreased by a larger amount than the fall in the number registered for it, resulting in a rise in the percentage of (eligible) 2-year-olds registered.
In 2022, of the 3 and 4-year-olds registered for the 15-hour entitlement, 116,500 (10%) were also in receipt of the early years pupil premium (EYPP). The number of children in receipt of EYPP has been steadily increasing since 2018 and the latest figure is the highest number on record since measurement began in 2016.