Looked after children in England

Children in care have poorer educational outcomes than their peers, and research shows that good quality early years provision can help narrow the attainment gap for disadvantaged children. However, little is known about whether looked after children are accessing available provision, and if so, whether it is of sufficient quality to reduce the risk of developmental delay. 

This exploratory study will address an urgent need for information on looked after children’s access to and experiences of early years provision, and will therefore contribute to improving outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged children in the UK.

The researchers aim to:

  • Establish what data are currently available and which systems currently exist to encourage take-up, support families choosing provision, and ensure that children attend good quality settings;
  • Identify existing good practice in the UK and internationally;
  • Make recommendations for policy and data management locally and nationally;
  • Lay the ground for, and consider the feasibility of, a follow-up study to explore a wider – but ultimately more important – question of whether looked after children actually access good quality early years provision and what their experiences are.

The research methods will include scoping seminars with UK experts, a literature and international knowledge sweep, key informant interviews and two local authority case studies. 

Project details


Sandra Mathers, Department of Education, University of Oxford

Ellen Broomé, The Family and Childcare Trust

Funding Programme

Early Years Provision

Grant amount and duration


June 2015 - February 2016