A think-tank report called for changes in the education system to improve social mobility. Their ten key recommendations included: for fairer admissions to comprehensives, grammar schools, and independent schools; to improve access to high quality early years education and care for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; to improve the quality of classroom teaching; for a national programme for highly able state school pupils; for high quality, personalized education and careers guidance; and for expansion in the number of good apprenticeships.
Source: Mobility Manifesto, Sutton Trust
A think-tank report examined educational inequality in England and made a range of recommendations, including for improvement in early years provision, for state boarding school places for disadvantaged children, for schools to share learning, for review of the criteria for targeting the pupil premium, for more free schools, and for changes in the further education system.
Source: Closing the Divide: Tackling educational inequality in England, Centre for Social Justice
A paper examined the impact of early grandparents' care on children's cognitive outcomes in the short and medium term, drawing on data from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study, and considered how the results compared for children from more or less advantaged backgrounds.
Source: Daniela Del Boca, Daniela Piazzalunga, and Chiara Pronzato, Early Child Care and Child Outcomes: The role of grandparents – evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (University of Torino)
Three reports provided findings from research into what influenced attainment and development in 16 year old students in England. The study had found a range of influences, including: individual, family, and neighbourhood characteristics; school quality; and a beneficial impact of early years (pre-school) education on longer-term achievement in exams and subsequent wage levels.
Source: Kathy Sylv, Edward Melhuish, Pam Sammons, Iram Siraj, and Brenda Taggart, with Rebecca Smees, Katalin Toth, Wesley Welcomme, and Katie Hollingworth, Students' Educational and Developmental Outcomes at Age 16: Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE 3-16) Project, Research Report 354, Department for Education
Source: Pam Sammons, Kathy Sylv, Edward Melhuish, Iram Siraj, Brenda Taggart, Rebecca Smees, and Katalin Toth, Influences on Students' Social-Behavioural Development at Age 16: Effective Pre-School, Primary & Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), Research Report 351, Department for Education
Source: Pam Sammons, Kathy Sylv, Edward Melhuish, Iram Siraj, Brenda Taggart, Katalin Toth, and Rebecca Smees, Influences on Students' GCSE Attainment and Progress at Age 16: Effective Pre-School, Primary & Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), Research Report 352, Department for Education
A report outlined key learning points from the trials of childminder agencies, which were announced by the government in 2013 with the aim of: encouraging more childminders to enter the market; providing support, training, and development for childminders; improving the quality of childminding provision; and helping parents to find a high quality provider.
Source: Hannah Yates, Andrew Ward, and David Duffett, Childminder Agency Trials: Key learning points for organisations setting up a childminder agency, Research Report 365, Department for Education
The Welsh Government began consultation on its proposed 10-year strategic plan for the development of the early years and childcare workforce. The consultation would close on 15 December 2014.
Source: Draft 10-Year Plan for the Early Years, Childcare and Play Workforce in Wales, WG22439, Welsh Government
A report provided findings from the evaluation of the first year of Making it REAL (2013-2015), which was established to deliver an evidence-based family literacy intervention for 2-5 year olds in England.
Source: Berni Graham, Vanessa Greene, and Emma Wallace, Evaluation of Making it REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy): Evaluation of the local authority development projects and the national rollout, National Childrenï¿½s Bureau
A report provided the findings of an independent review of childcare and early education registration, regulation, and inspection in Wales. The review concluded that historic development had led to an approach that was based on inspection of setting type rather than child need, and that this resulted in a complex and 'often inconsistent' system that had increased in complexity alongside changing policy approaches and social needs. The report made recommendations for change, taking a 'child first' approach and based on a simplification of the system via a single quality framework for early childhood education and care.
Source: Independent Review of Childcare and Early Education Registration, Regulation and Inspection, Welsh Government
An article examined mechanisms of formal assessment for children at the age of 5 after their first year in school in England (the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile). It said that this type of statutory assessment was unusual, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom as well as with other countries. Drawing on two ethnographic case studies of classrooms of four- and five-year-old children in London, the article said that there were tensions between the construction of teachers' knowledge, their ambivalence regarding the numerical data they reported, and the use of the data for school accountability purposes. The article considered the implications of the data being produced by English schools.
Source: Alice Bradbury, 'Early childhood assessment: observation, teacher "knowledge" and the production of attainment data in early years settings', Comparative Education, Volume 50 Issue 3
A report examined provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in 32 European countries, including the United Kingdom, providing data and comparative analysis on a range of issues including: access to ECEC; governance; quality assurance; affordability; qualifications and training among staff; leadership; parent involvement; and measures to support disadvantaged children. The report said that eight European countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Malta, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway) guaranteed a legal right to ECEC soon after a child's birth, while in all other countries the gap between the end of maternity/parental leave and legal entitlement to ECEC was over two years. It said that provision of quality ECEC was affected in many countries by lack of funding, staff shortages, qualifications levels of employees, and an absence of educational guidelines for teachers and other staff. Provision, staffing requirements, and fee levels varied across Europe and, for children under three, fees were highest in Ireland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland (countries with high levels of private provision). Although most countries offered some means-tested financial support, children from disadvantaged families had lower ECEC participation rates. The report included summaries of existing provision and fees for each country.
Source: European Commission, EACEA, Eurydice, and Eurostat, Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe: 2014 edition, European Union
A report examined the wider outcomes and impact of play interventions and initiatives for children, looking particularly at four types of intervention: improving opportunities for free play in school break times; un-staffed public play facilities; supervised out-of-school play provision; and street play initiatives. The report said that play initiatives led to improvements in children's physical and mental health and well-being, were linked to a range of other cognitive and social developmental benefits, and could also benefit families and communities. It said that there were significant gaps in the evidence base, which could mean that the available evidence underestimated the wider benefits.
Source: Tim Gill, The Play Return: A review of the wider impact of play initiatives, Children's Play Policy Forum
An article examined the literature on young children's learning at home and in early childhood settings, to examine three key areas of practice: play-based activities and routines; support for communication and language; and opportunities to move and be physically active. It found the literature on effective practice to be sparse, and called for the evidence base to be strengthened using a multi-source approach.
Source: Sandra Mathers, Kathy Sylva, Naomi Eisenstadt, Elena Soukakou, and Katharina Ereky-Stevens, 'Supporting early learning for children under three: research and practice', Journal of Children's Services, Volume 9 Number 2
A report examined findings from a cross-party inquiry into the provision of childcare for children with disabilities. It said that: 41 per cent of families with disabled children aged three and four were unable to access their full free entitlement to childcare and early years education, due to a chronic lack of appropriate settings or lack of funding; 86 per cent of parent carers who responded to a survey reported paying above average childcare costs; childcare problems had caused 72 per cent of families to reduce or give up work; the situation worsened as children got older; and local authorities, nurseries, and schools were unclear about their duties towards provision for children with disabilities. The report called for all parties to commit to developing appropriate provision for all children.
Source: Levelling the Playing Field for Families with Disabled Children and Young People, Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children
A special issue of a journal examined early childhood services for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Europe.
Source: European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Volume 22 Issue 3
Links: Table of contents
Notes: Articles included:
Paul Leseman and Pauline Slot, 'Breaking the cycle of poverty: challenges for European early childhood education and care'
Alice Bradbury, 'Learning, assessment and equality in Early Childhood Education (ECE) settings in England'
Eva Lloyd and Helen Penn, 'Childcare markets in an age of austerity'
A report examined what worked in delivering high-quality early childhood education and care, and in supporting children (and their parents) from all backgrounds to grow and develop. It said there was a need for greater clarity of purpose from central government and that policy should be developed to reduce the inequalities in children's outcomes, develop the early years profession, provide greater support for family income in the early years through increased entitlement to early years education, and support the home learning environment.
Source: Janet Grauberg (ed.), Early Years: Valuable ends and effective means, CentreForum
A think-tank report examined how the United Kingdom might develop a universal, high-quality, and affordable system of childcare and early years provision that would promote higher employment rates for parents, reduce early childhood inequalities, and enhance gender equality. Recommendations included: an extension of universal early years entitlement to 15 hours per week, 48 weeks per year, from the age of two; a framework of affordable childcare for working families, funded through reforms to existing tax credits and reliefs; improvements to the quality of childcare and early learning, and a highly qualified early years profession; and reforms to parental leave entitlements. The report also called for a greater focus on public funding of provision, rather than on cash transactions between the state and families.
Source: Dalia Ben-Galim, with Nick Pearce and Spencer Thompson, No More Baby Steps: A strategy for revolutionising childcare, Institute for Public Policy Research
A report said that, despite recent policy initiatives, many parents still cited childcare as a barrier to work, many children were not receiving quality early years education, and the options available to low-income families and those who worked evening, weekends, or unreliable hours were considerably narrow and often involved compromising on quality. Particular issues included: upfront costs (payment in advance and deposits); limited flexibility to change childcare arrangements; and payment schedules (with higher quality providers being more likely to require monthly payments and less likely to offer flexibility). The report considered the policy implications, and made a range of recommendations.
Source: The Practicalities Of Childcare: An overlooked part of the puzzle?, Citizens Advice
A report examined the relationship between children's experience of pre-school provision and change in their social and cognitive development between ages 3 and 5, drawing on data from the Growing Up in Scotland study, combined with administrative data provided by the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. The project had examined differences in the characteristics of provision experienced by different children and whether, in particular, the quality of the provision influenced change in children's outcomes. Noting the variation in form and quality of provision, the report concluded that the evidence suggested that consistent and universal access to high quality pre-school provision would benefit children in terms of their vocabulary ability and social and behavioural development, thus helping to reduce socio-economic inequalities in such outcomes.
Source: Paul Bradshaw, Gemma Lewis, and Tracey Hughes, Growing Up in Scotland: Characteristics of pre-school provision and their association with child outcomes, Scottish Government
A report examined practice in relation to early language development (ELD) interventions within Flying Start, a support programme targeted at families with children aged between 0-3, and living in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Wales. The report said that the delivery of universal ELD provision was not sufficient to reach all families, and particularly those in high need groups. The report examined practitioners' awareness, understanding, and training in relation to ELD, models and structures of delivery, screening and assessment tools, and engagement with families. It made a range of recommendations.
Source: Hefin Thomas, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Evans, and Viv Edwards, A Review of Practice in the Implementation of the Early Language Development Support Element Within Flying Start, Research Paper 62/2014, Welsh Government
The government began consultation on proposals to introduce an early years pupil premium for all disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds from April 2015, and to move to participation funding for the early education entitlement for two-year-olds from 2015- 16. The consultation would close on 22 August 2014.
Source: Early Years Pupil Premium and Funding for Two-Year-Olds, Department for Education
A report said that a survey of childcare professionals found that most did not support planned changes to childcare in England, including plans to encourage more schools to take two-year-olds, implement childminder agencies, and introduce baseline assessments at the start of reception. The report said that there were concerns over the sustainability of free childcare offers, with fewer than 1 in 5 childcare providers (19 per cent) having said that they received enough funding to cover the cost of providing free places for three- and four-year-olds, and under one-third (32 per cent) reporting enough funding to cover the cost of providing two-year-olds' places. The research was ongoing, with further work intending to examine pay and conditions in the sector, parents' views, and the costs of providing free entitlement.
Source: Shannon Hawthorne, Early Years Agenda: Interim report, Pre-school Learning Alliance
A report examined whether early years settings and schools serving 3-4 year old children in England offered comparable quality to all children, and which kinds of providers were most able to offer good quality in disadvantaged areas. It said that: government-maintained schools (state provision) located in disadvantaged areas offered a comparable or higher quality of provision for disadvantaged children than schools serving more advantaged children; the quality of non-state provision for 3-4 year olds was lower in settings located in disadvantaged areas, in settings with more disadvantaged user-bases, and in services attended by individual children from disadvantaged backgrounds (although some aspects such as the physical environment, care routines, and health and safety practices were of comparable quality for all children); the qualification level of staff had an impact in some settings; and that it was most difficult to achieve good provision in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children. The report made a range of recommendations.
Source: Sandra Mathers and Rebecca Smees, Quality and Inequality: Do three and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision?, Nuffield Foundation
A report provided findings from the Focus on Enforcement review of the early years childcare sector in England, which examined the impact of regulatory delivery by national and local regulators for childminders, nurseries, and pre-schools for children in the early years age group. The review led to a range of changes being made by Ofsted.
Source: Review of Enforcement in the Childcare Sector, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
A report examined the impact of child-targeted interventions in early childhood education and care (ECEC) and initiatives to widen access to higher education in Europe, and their impact on social mobility in later years. It said that, in the context of economic uncertainty, high-quality ECEC appeared to be an effective evidence-based social policy tool, but was not a panacea. The report recommended the development of indicators and policy goals that linked ECEC provision for underrepresented groups with access to higher education.
Source: Benoit Guerin, Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage: Early childhood interventions and progression to higher education in Europe, RAND Europe
The inspectorate for education and children's services said that the quality of early years provision in England had risen in recent years, with 78 per cent of providers judged good or outstanding. However, the report said that, in the past year, two thirds of children from low-income backgrounds had not reached a good level of development at the age of five (in some areas the figure was more than four fifths), and that pre-school children from poorer backgrounds needed the support of professionally trained teaching staff to prevent them falling behind when they reached school age. The report called for a range of measures, including: better, clearer information for parents to aid choice; better data to aid Ofsted assessment; greater integration of children's centres in the sector, with clearer outcomes measurement; and for the extension of the pupil premium to two-year olds. A companion report discussed good practice regarding children's readiness for school.
Source 1: Early Years, HMI 130237, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
Source 2: Are You Ready? Good practice in school readiness, HMI 140074, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
An article examined British and American approaches to early childhood education and care. Drawing on a range of data sources, it argued that the two broadly similar 'liberal' welfare regimes exhibited qualitatively different approaches to market-based service provision through the state's different roles as financier and regulator.
Source: Caitlin McLean, 'Market managers and market moderators: early childhood education and care provision, finance and regulation in the United Kingdom and United States', Journal of European Social Policy, Volume 24 Number 2
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was given Royal assent. The Act provided for additional, funded early learning and childcare, for every child and young person to have a named person from birth responsible for safeguarding their well-being, for the extension of the upper age limit for young people leaving care, and for kinship carers to be provided with more support from local authorities.
Source: Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, Scottish Parliament, TSO
The government began consultation on proposals to make changes to the provision of early education and childcare as a result of measures in the Children and Families Bill (awaiting Royal assent). The consultation asked for views on the introduction of childminder agencies, and on new draft regulations. The consultation would close on 22 May 2014.
Source: Childminder Agencies and Changes to the Local Authority Role, Department for Education
The government responded to a report by a committee of MPs on Sure Start children's centres.
Source: Foundation Years: Sure Start children's centres: Government response to the Committee's Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, Fifth Special Report (Session 201314), HC 1141, House of Commons Education Select Committee, TSO
A report proposed a range of policy measures to help build 'character and resilience' defined, broadly, as the attributes that enable individuals to maximize opportunities, to persist in, and bounce back from, adversity, and to forge and maintain meaningful relationships. Recommendations included: the extension of the pupil premium into early years education; evidence-based parenting initiatives; mandatory participation by teachers in extra-curricular activity; incorporation of character and resilience into teacher training and continuing professional development programmes; encouragement of volunteering among young people; and initiatives to involve employers in developing and valuing character and resilience.
Source: Chris Paterson, Claire Tyler, and Jen Lexmond, Character and Resilience Manifesto, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility
A report examined the available evidence on the quality of early childhood education and care for children under three, drawing on international research primarily from the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand. The report concluded that developmental benefits were only achieved if children were able to attend good quality provision. It made a range of recommendations, including: for better qualified and better paid staff; to ensure good 'social mix' among children; for appropriate and stimulating physical environments; for the further strengthening of the Ofsted inspection system; and for the delay of the roll out of the early education initiative until the government could ensure consistently good quality provision.
Source: Sandra Mathers, Naomi Eisenstadt, Kathy Sylva, Elena Soukakou, and Katharina Ereky-Stevens, Sound Foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality of early childhood education and care for children under three – implications for policy and practice, Sutton Trust
The inspectorate for education and children's services began consultation on proposals for the inspection of childminder agencies. The consultation would close on 21 March 2014.
Source: Inspecting Childminder Agencies: A consultation document, HMI 130255, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
Links: Consultation document