This paper considers the socially progressive function of a model of 'quality' early childhood education and care widely prescribed to address child poverty across England and the USA. Ubiquitous, it is imbued with a sense of objectivity, secureness and practicality. We question these foundations. Then using data from practitioners in both countries, we contrast expectations about this model of ECEC as an unmitigated good building resilience to 'break cycles of disadvantage', with the everyday experiences and frustrations of practitioners pursuing it. Their data suggest this model of 'quality' has limitations and some heresy is required about this policy orthodoxy.