Almost all children experience some combination of childcare and early education before they start school. Our research improves understanding of this provision, including its impact on children’s development and the extent to which it can alleviate disadvantage.
Our research explores the impact of early years education and childcare on educational outcomes and development. We also want to understand how early years provision does, or could, tackle disadvantage by addressing the attainment gaps already apparent between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds by the time they start school.
The parental and family context is also relevant to our work in early years. For example in relation to how childcare provision is subsidised and the effects of that on the education, training and employment choices of parents.
We also want to improve understanding of how the private and voluntary sector providers operate, and how good quality provision can be achieved and maintained. This includes questions of funding, regulation and staffing models.
Our impact in early years
Pre-school children in over 250 settings are improving their number foundations through the Preschool Number Learning Scheme developed by Dr Jo Van Herwegen. The series of number games have been proven to boost preschool children’s confidence and ability in maths in just five weeks.
Our report by Professor Sandra Mathers showed the role graduates play in closing the ‘quality gap’ in early years provision. This has informed the government’s Early Years Workforce Strategy which highlights the need to maximise the number of specialist early years graduates in disadvantaged areas.
Dr Danielle Matthews’ research on promoting parents’ contingent talk to improve language development has informed the work of Save the Children and the National Deaf Children’s Society. Her research was cited in the Bercow 10 Years On report and the team has secured funding from the ESRC and the University Legacy Fund to conduct further research.