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Segregation of early years settings: patterns, drivers and outcomes

Researchers: Dr Kitty Stewart | Dr Ludovica Gambaro

Project overview

This project will examine the patterns, drivers, and outcomes of segregation by socioeconomic group and ethnicity in early education.

The team will use data from the National Pupil Database to do three things: 

  1. Examine the extent of segregation in early education for three- and four-year-olds in England, both in relation to socio-economic background and in relation to ethnicity.
  2. Explore the extent to which these patterns simply reflect geographical segregation, and the extent to which they are exacerbated by differences in the nature of provision in different settings (such as different opening hours and fees for additional hours).
  3. Link children’s data longitudinally to explore the association between pre-school peer group and outcomes at Key Stage 1 (age 7), holding other child and setting characteristics constant.

Why does this matter? 

There is some evidence to support the idea that peer effects are relevant to early child development, in particular in relation to language acquisition. If this is so, the composition of early education settings is an important feature of provision, which is likely to influence children’s outcomes, especially those of disadvantaged children. But there is much less research on the existence of peer effects for preschool age children than for older children and adolescents, and there has been no systematic attempt to map the extent of segregation across early education settings in England. This project aims to address that. 

Latest on this project


  • Dr Kitty Stewart
    London School of Economics
  • Dr Ludovica Gambaro
    University College London

  • Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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