Recent findings from the study of early education and development (SEED) emphasise the benefits of attending formal early childhood education and care (ECEC), from 2 years to 4 years, on children’s cognitive outcomes at age 4. According to the 2018 SEED report titled ‘Impact Study on Early Education Use and Child Outcomes up to age four years,’ more time in formal early years education whether day nursery, nursery class, nursery school, or at a pre-school/playgroup is connected to better non-verbal development, more pro-social behaviour, and more behavioural self-regulation at age 4. These findings were mostly independent of the effects of a “rich home learning environment,” meaning attending some type of early education benefited children aged 2 – 4 years.
Furthermore, a 2017 study by the same group of researchers across early years providers found that the professional qualifications of staff have improved over the last 16 years. There were several telling characteristics associated with quality that the group cited as potential areas for further improvement, including more staff members present per child, more and higher qualified staff, having a plan or budget for staff training, a smaller age range in the children, having more places for children, and having a specialist SEND provision. Undeniably, all of those characteristics require more funding to a greater or lesser extent to be achievable and maintainable.
High quality childcare that’s accessible is important for working parents and the economy as a whole. Overall the idea that it’s better to have more parents in the workforce and more children benefiting from formal early years is widely accepted, but the cost of childcare remains prohibitive for some working families. According to Royal London and National Day Nurseries Association, the 30 hours childcare offer is not reaching its potential, possibly leaving the certain families without access to an early years option. Continued evaluation into the 30 hours childcare offer must continue to support local authorities and providers in ways to best and most effectively deliver and promote scheme to ensure young children and their families including those considered the most vulnerable, are able to access high quality early years and harvest the benefits.