Schools are to enrol children as young as TWO – a move that has been condemned as the 'schoolification' of kids' early years.
A new law will scrap red tape that prevent schools automatically opening their doors to the youngest pupils.
It will mean head teachers can effectively register two-year-olds as pupils – in the same way as normal school-age children – rather than classifying them as part of separate early years provision.
The existing cut-off is the age of three.
At the moment, just over one in 20 schools – six per cent – take two-year-olds.
Under the new Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, schools will be exempt from registering two-year-olds separately with Ofsted - which supports the new legislation. Currently, they must be placed on the early years register, subjecting them to different inspections from older pupils.
A briefing document on the Bill, revealed in the Telegraph, says: "This will reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools – and has already been done for three and four-year-old provision."
But childcare experts warned that the move represented evidence of the 'schoolification' of the early years, warning that it risks undermining children's natural development.
They claim that children should be able to develop naturally at a young age and not forced into structured education too soon.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: "We remain extremely concerned about the Government's plans to push children as young as two into schools.
"It's clear that the move has been driven by a desire to cut costs, rather than a desire to improve children's early learning experiences.
"Two-year-olds have very specific learning and development needs which differ significantly from those of three or four-year-olds, and many schools simply won't have the appropriate physical environment or suitably-trained staff to be able to meet these needs.
"This is yet another example of the government's desire to 'schoolify' the early years sector."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "This Bill will cut bureaucracy by making it to make it easier for new, high quality providers to open – whether that is schools, nurseries or childminders – and existing ones to expand."
What do you think about this? Would you want your two-year-old to go to school?
More on Parentdish: Schools for two-year-olds! Seriously?