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Early years education boosts everyone, not just the disadvantaged, reveals DfE

12-Jul-17
Article By: Angeline Albert

All children benefit from early education from the age of two ‘regardless’ of a child’s household income and level of disadvantage in their area, Government research reveals.

Credit: Sergyi N/Shutterstock

New research from the Department for Education (DfE) reveals higher verbal ability has been linked to all Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) which includes that given by nurseries, childminders and playgroups - with ECEC having a positive impact on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development at age three, regardless of how disadvantaged they are.

From September 2013, two-year-olds living in the 20 per cent most disadvantaged households became eligible for 15 hours of funded early education per week. This was extended in September 2014 to two-year-olds living in the 40 per cent most disadvantaged households.

According to a new DfE report, while all children benefit from ECEC, the most disadvantaged, poorest children gain the most from it. The findings published in a report on 12 July, came from a major longitudinal study known as Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) which has followed almost 6,000 two-year-olds in England through to the end of KS1 (seven-years-old).

‘The SEED report: Impact Study on Early Education Use and Child Outcomes up to Age Three’, looks at the impact of different early years settings on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development at age three, and the relationship between a child’s home environment and their development.

The document reveals day nurseries and playgroups bring children aged three, several benefits when it comes to socio-emotional development, with children experiencing fewer emotional symptoms, more ‘prosocial’ behaviour such as sharing toys and empathy and fewer peer problems such as poor social skills.

The SEED study is being conducted by NatCen Social Research, working with the University of Oxford, Action for Children and Frontier Economics, on behalf of the DfE.

A spokeswoman for NatCen Social Research said: “The study is important because it shows clear benefits for children in attending nurseries or childminders even when they are as young as two, which is of particular interest in the context of the expansion of funded childcare for children living in disadvantaged households.”

Time spent with childminders is linked to cognitive language development in children at age three involving improved verbal and non-verbal ability.

Childminders were associated with fewer ‘emotional symptoms’ in children such as worry, unhappiness and nervousness and also helped children exercise behavioural self-regulation such as thinking before acting.

Not ‘glorified babysitters’

Liz Bayram, chief executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) said: “Childminders are more than glorified babysitters; they are providing some of the highest quality care and early education for children and their families.

“The latest reports from SEED provide yet more robust evidence of the high quality care and education offered by registered childminders, in particular their positive impact on verbal ability, reduced emotional symptoms, and better behavioural self-regulation.

“This comes in the wake of news that 92 per cent of childminders now have a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted. Yet in spite of these achievements, the number of registered childminders in England has declined by nearly a quarter since 2012." Ms Bayram says the Government could make childminding sustainable by improved funding for the free entitlement and helping with start-up costs.

“PACEY is very concerned that the introduction of 30 hours of funded childcare in September will lead to a further decline. PACEY’s own research found that childminding is consistently overlooked by parents and local authorities for funded places."

Alongside ‘The SEED report: Impact Study on Early Education Use and Child Outcomes up to Age Three’, the DfE also published a research report from SEED called ‘The potential value for money of early education’, which includes analysis of the effect of current early years provision on children’s outcomes, value for money of early education associated with different types of provision.

'Government must do its part'

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “This report echoes what we in the sector have long argued: that an investment into early education is an investment into the future of society.

“But of course, it’s not enough to simply create more childcare places. For far too long, we’ve seen policies driven by a short-term desire to attract votes, with a disproportionate focus on 'childcare' as a means to get parents back to work over and above quality early education that aims to give all children the best possible start in life.

“Providers are working hard to deliver the quality early care and education needed to make a real difference in children’s lives – it’s time for the Government to do its part.”

To read the latest SEED reports: ‘SEED - Impact Study of Early Education Use and Child Outcomes Up to Age 3’ and ‘Early education: Potential value for money’ visit: www.gov.uk/government/collections/study-of-early-education-and-development-seed

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