Labour’s founding aim is to create a more equal society. Given that huge inequalities set in before children even reach primary school, that mission starts at birth. Putting a duty on public bodies to consider how they reduce inequality caused by social disadvantage, as the Equality Act does, would logically lead to greater investment in early years education.
Poverty affects children’s brain development, much of which happens before the age of three. Research by Save the Children found that nearly 80 per cent of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor teenagers had been determined by the age of seven. By ensuring their services give every child the best start in life, no matter their background, councils and government departments can reduce the attainment gap between rich and poor children.
It makes long-term financial sense, too, saving money that would otherwise be spent on reading recovery, job schemes and welfare.
Theresa May’s first speech as prime minister focused on inequality. She must now show conviction and implement Section One. In an era of tight budgets, politics more than ever is about priorities. The priority has to be investing in early years and breaking the cycle of deprivation that prevents people fulfilling their potential.