Evidence suggests that early education can promote children’s development and narrow attainment gaps between those from lower-income and higher-income families. However, realisation of these potential benefits depends on many factors, feasibly including peer composition. We use national census data for a year-group cohort of children in England in 2011, to answer two questions: how are low-income children distributed across pre-schools; and what is the relationship between the proportion of low-income peers in a low-income child’s setting and these children’s subsequent recorded educational attainment? In contrast to many European countries and to the United States, we find that the majority of low-income children attend mixed settings. We find little evidence for associations between the proportion of low-income peers and low-income children’s subsequent early attainment. We suggest that this may be due to an arguably optimal distribution across settings, where the funding and provision context of 2011 facilitated a lack of clustering of low-income children.