Members of the Lords, including sociologists, scientists and former teachers, debated the case for early years intervention in breaking the cycle of deprivation and promoting social mobility, on Thursday 8 January.
Members highlighted the importance of early years (children five and under) development and argued that intervention at this stage of life is key to improving health, wellbeing and social competence in adulthood.
Key stages of brain development during early years were highlighted by some scientists and members stressed that while intervention at early years is important, it should be followed by intervention at other stages for it to be effective and policies in this area should stretch across school years as a whole.
The issue of funding was raised, with some members arguing that investment in early years will avoid larger sums of expenditure to tackle problems such as obesity and mental health problems in adults.
Members looked at access to childcare, and identified that the positive impact of early years education is more pronounced for children from less educated, lower income groups or families where English is a second language, but these are often the groups with the poorest access to it. Members made arguments to improve key access to early years education for those most at risk.
Parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools Lord Nash (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government. He agreed early years provision has benefits for all-round attainment and behaviour, and the lower participation rates of poorer children is a concern. He highlighted that the government have increased free early education entitlement and invested in programmes to tackle the participation gap.