Reporting Year 2021

Education provision: children under 5 years of age

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  1. Data files covering SEN and ethnicity have been reformatted.

  2. The following two data files have been updated to correct an error in the national level three- and four-year-old population estimates and take-up rates: "Percentage Take-Up and Number of Children Registered by Age and Provider Type" and "National Percentage Take-Up By Age (2011 to 2021)". The percentage of three- and four-year-olds registered for universal hours is now 90% instead of the 88% previously reported.

  3. Data file has been added at Local Authority District level.

This data reports on the provision of funded early education for children under 5 in England during the week commencing 18 January 2021.

All children aged three- and four-years-old, and eligible disadvantaged two-year-olds, are entitled to 15 hours per week of funded early education for 38 weeks of the year. Working parents of three- and four-year-olds are eligible for an additional 15 weekly hours of extended funded early education for 38 weeks of the year. Full criteria for eligibility are outlined in the Background section of the Methodology. 

Data is collected from local authorities covering schools, maintained nurseries and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers including childminders as part of the spring school census and the early years census.  


Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact

Early years provision was expected to remain open during the national lockdown in January 2021. Open providers were asked to return data on the expected attendance of their registered children. This includes children who were temporarily absent due to the impacts of COVID-19 on parental confidence, health and self-isolation. Providers who were closed due to government advice (for example, staff members self-isolating) were also asked to return the expected attendance of their registered children. 

The Department's early years settings survey of local authorities has been publishing estimates of early years attendance for children under five-year-olds using providers throughout the coronavirus pandemic. This statistical release differs from the linked survey, as this release is based on child-level census data relating to the week commencing 18 January 2021 and covers only the funded early education entitlements for two, three and four-year-olds.

For regional and local authority data, please see the Create Tables option at the bottom of the page. This tool also offers pupil characteristics (special educational needs, ethnicity, pupil premium, basis for two-year-old funding) and provider characteristics data (type of provider, staff qualifications, Ofsted ratings) beyond what is covered in the main statistical release. 

Headline facts and figures - 2021

  • The number of eligible two-year-olds registered to receive funded early education entitlements has fallen by 13% to 124,500 in 2021.
  • The number of three and four-year-olds registered to receive funded early education has fallen by 5% to 1,212,000 in 2021.
  • The number of three and four-year-olds registered to receive extended early education has fallen by 5% and is now similar to the number in 2019.

The decrease in the number and proportion of children registered to receive funded entitlements reflect the impact of COVID-19 uncertainty on supply (providers) and demand (parents) for early years provision in January 2021. 

Children who are temporarily absent are included in census returns each year. In 2021 this is likely to be a higher proportion of the reported figures due to COVID-19 related absence, such as self-isolating and shielding. Comparisons can be made across years relating to the underlying demand expected by open providers, based on registered children. The full COVID-19 inclusion criteria is available in the methodology. 

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