Research from the Education Policy Institute, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, finds that the presence of a graduate in private, voluntary and independent (PVI) early years settings demonstrates a small but positive association with young children’s educational attainment. Drawing on data spanning over a decade covering over 6 million children, the study finds that modest improvements in child outcomes were seen across several years of data, and persisted into primary school, remaining at age 11.

The report also finds that the association between a child attending early years settings with a graduate and improved outcomes is twice as strong for those children who spend more hours in settings – strengthening the case for an extension of the government’s 30 hours free childcare offer, so that it is open to all families.  While the new findings indicate a positive impact from graduates, the report also demonstrates that their presence is far from a “silver bullet” for improving young children’s attainment – this is also driven by a range of other factors in the early years, school and home environment.

Responding to the report Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years  Alliance, said: “We know that highly-qualified early years staff have a positive impact on child outcomes and it is notable that this report finds that this impact lasts throughout the primary years, rather than fading out earlier on as has been suggested by previous research. For years now, we have called on the government to do more ensure that the early years sector is able to both recruit and retain high-quality practitioners – both those with degree-level qualifications, and those who may not have a degree but have a wealth of experience and an in-depth knowledge of child development. The fact is that quality costs, and unfortunately, years of government underfunding has left us with a situation where salaries in the sector are among the lowest across all industries and far too many excellent practitioners are making the difficult decision to leave the early years permanently.”

As such, while we welcome the EPI’s call on the government to do more to review the quality and qualifications of the early years workforce, without a commitment to invest substantially more into the sector as a whole, such a review will not result in any meaningful change.

Full report available on the  Education Policy Institute Website.

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