Earlychildhood care in the UK emerged in the 18th century, provided on avoluntary basis.
First by Robert Owen (1771-1858), who established thefirst nursery school for the children of cotton mill workers, whilsttheir families went to work. Owen’s ideas consisted of educating the childrenthrough unstructured free play, informal teaching and physical activities withchildren aged 1 -6 years, all of which went on to create the foundations for150 infant schools across the country.Yearsafter Owen’s first nursery was established,a significant event ‘The Passage of Education Act’ 1870 was passed, whichprovided a compulsory education for children aged 5-13 years.The acthighlighted the previous lack of facilities for early years children at age 5,and also removed them from the inadequate conditions of deprived housing anddangerous streets of the time. Moreover, in 1905, it was realised thatadmitting young children below five was not adequate due to the inspectorscritical view of the repetitive and memorisation techniques used in the schoolcurriculum and as a consequence, early years children were excluded from theestablishments, it was then recommended that the early years age group hadseparate facilities and a different teaching method.
Recenthistory In 1996, the conservative government introduced a pilot scheme in fourlocal authorities which provides parents with nursery vouchers worth £1,100 forup to three terms in part time education for a four year old child in private,voluntary or local authority nurseries. Duringthe period 1997- 2010, New Labour came into power providing a significantboost for early years children by increased public funding. Labour extendedfunding to all three year olds over 38 weeks in 2004.
In 2006 the funding wasincreased again to 15 hours over 38 weeks. Nurseryfunding was given a boost again by the conservative government, this time forworking parents in 2017 with the full roll-out of 30 hours funded childcare toeligible working parents.