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Attending a nursery with highly qualified staff or an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating has a limited impact on a child’s educational achievement, according to new research.
The report titled 'Nursery Quality: New evidence of the impact on children’s outcomes', found that staff qualifications and Ofsted ratings cannot predict the quality of early years education, arguing that conventional methods of testing quality do not have a significant influence on educational outcomes.
Co-author Dr Jo Blanden, senior lecturer in Economics at the University of Surrey, said: "Successive governments have focused on improving staff qualifications, based on the belief that these are important for children’s learning.
"Our research which suggests that having a member of staff qualified to graduate level working in the nursery has only a tiny effect on children’s outcomes has surprised us, given existing research that finds well qualified staff have higher quality interactions with children."
Researchers at the London School of Economics, University of Sussex and University College London, used data from 1.6 million children who were born between September 2003 and August 2006, to compare the characteristics of the early years setting they attended with their performance in teacher assessments.
One in ten children attended a nursery rated as 'outstanding', two thirds attended a 'good' nursery, one in five attended one rated 'satisfactory' and just two per cent attended a nursery rated 'inadequate'.
The researchers found that while children who attend an 'outstanding' nursery or one which employs a graduate do better, scores were just one third of a point higher on the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) scale of 117, compared to the average of children in other nurseries.
They also found that attending a nursery judged as 'outstanding' was linked with moving up less than one level on one of the 13 scales that make up the EYFS.
However, while the authors argued against conventional methods for testing setting quality, they said that quality childcare was still important and recommended further research into why some children do better than others.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Preschool Learning Alliance welcomed the report’s findings. He said: "We hope that this research will end the widespread misconception that private and voluntary providers are of lower quality than maintained settings simply because they are less likely to employ graduate staff members, and prompt further research and debate into what ‘quality’ in the early years actually means."
The Government spends £2bn a year on providing part-time nursery education for three- and four-year-olds in England and pilots are underway to extend the current 15 hours to 30 hours.
Dr Blanden added: "Some nurseries are helping children to do better than others, but this is not related to staff qualifications or Ofsted ratings.
"It is extremely important to discover the factors that lead to a high-quality nursery experience so we can maximise children’s chances to benefit developmentally from attending nursery, particularly as the Government extends the entitlement from 15 to 30 hours.
"I guess the focus should be more on interactions, but this is just from reading the literature. Our research doesn’t answer this point, but does indicate that there are clear differences between nurseries that should be investigated.”
Save the Children published a report last year saying it was vital for every nursery in England to have a qualified early years teacher.
The charity claimed that a nationwide shortage of 10,000 trained nursery teachers is putting a quarter of a million children at risk of falling behind.
For more information on the study visit: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/