Analysis of the early years workforce and its impact on children’s outcomes

This project aims to improve our understanding of what makes a difference to the quality of the early years workforce and, ultimately to children’s outcomes.

Research suggests that high quality early years education can have positive and long lasting impacts on children’s outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children. Evidence also points to the workforce as a key driver of quality provision, yet despite this, it is still not clear which features of the early years workforce make the biggest difference.

This mixed methods study aims to identify the most effective features of the early years workforce to ensure that investment in the early years is best geared towards improvement of outcomes for children. This project will consist of four strands of work, each aimed at answering distinct research questions.

  1. Who are the early years workforce?
    This strand will attempt to develop a comprehensive picture of the early years workforce in terms of demographic, educational and employment characteristics using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). 
  2. What drives the provision of a qualified workforce? What could be done to increase it?
    This strand will investigate the supply and demand side factors that have driven, or could potentially drive, the provision of a qualified early years workforce. This will be achieved through further analysis of the LFS and the Early Years Census.
  3. What current incentives and barriers exist to the recruitment, retention and development of qualified early years staff?
    This strand will involve qualitative interviews aimed at providing detailed insights into the factors that facilitate or obstruct the recruitment, retention and development of a high quality early years workforce. 
  4. What is the relationship between workforce quality and children’s educational outcomes?
    This strand will examine the relationship between workforce characteristics such as staff qualifications and training, staffing structures and turnover rates and children’s educational outcomes at ages 5 and 7.  Analysis will use data from of the Early Years Census data and the National Pupil Database (NPD).

The findings of this project will be used to provide policy-makers with evidence based recommendations about how to improve the quality of early years provision.

Project details



Dr Sara Bonetti, Education Policy Institute

Dr Jo Blanden, University of Surrey

Fatima Husain, NatCen

Grant amount and duration:


July 2018 - August 2020