South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has defended her plans to extend childcare to two-year-olds, amid fears that thousands of children are being placed in inadequate nurseries.
An Oxford University study, which is set to be published today, will argue that a lot of the care currently on offer is of an insufficient standard to help youngsters from poorer homes to develop the language skills.
And the Sutton Trust education charity, which commissioned the research, has called for plans to expand the scheme later this year to be delayed, in order to improve standards.
But Ms Truss, the childcare minister, said three-quarters of early years providers are already rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
She argues that her reforms, which include tougher inspections, higher standards of qualifications for staff and a requirement for councils to only invest in nurseries which are good or better, are designed to target institutions which need to improve.
She said: “A third of children are starting school without basic language and communication skills. In poorer areas this rises to more than a half.
“By the time they start school, poorer children are already 19 months behind their more affluent peers. I am determined to tackle this.
“Good quality teacher-led early years education is essential so children can develop the social skills and vocabulary they need for learning.”