He said: “England has a tradition of high-quality early years education. This report is the latest confirmation that Government policies are destroying it.

“As this report points out, high quality Early Years education that is properly funded and run by a qualified teacher is essential to ensure every child has the best start in life. This aim however is being undermined by Government policy, with funding in the early years being cut in real terms and the requirement for a qualified teacher in every school nursery and reception class removed. 

“The report notes that the big picture is one of inadequate funding to support high quality provision, with Government policy likely to further damage quality provision. This has been accompanied by sustained cuts to Sure Start provision. Cuts to local authority funding have undermined the support and services local authorities provide for early years education. The new 30-hour offer is not properly funded.

“Early Years education is a vitally important stage in a child’s development, and should be considered by Government and policy-makers as such. It is not merely preparation for formal schooling, but an important stage of a child’s education in its own right. It is the quality of childcare that makes the difference in reducing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers before they start school.

“The Government’s funding of nursery education for the youngest children lacks vision and is leaving many children without access to the essential support and services their families may need.”