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New study finds childminders improve young children’s language and behaviour

The Department for Education has published two new reports from the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED), which is a long-term study looking at the impact and value for money of funded early education and childcare. It has been tracking 6,000 children from the age of 2 since 2014.

Impact on children’s outcomes

The first report, written by researchers at Oxford University, analyses early education use and its impact on child outcomes up to age 3. The research reveals that 2- and 3-year-olds benefit from both formal and informal early education and care, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds likely to benefit even more.

Childminders were found to have a particularly positive impact on young children’s cognitive development, and verbal ability in particular. Children attending a childminding setting were also found to have fewer emotional symptoms (e.g. anxiety and stress), and more behavioural self-regulation (e.g. more likely to think before acting and be persistent).

Group settings were associated with more prosocial behaviour (e.g. sharing, showing empathy) and fewer peer problems (e.g. acting unsociablly) and emotional symptoms (e.g. anxiety and stress). However, 3 year-olds attending group settings for over 35 hours per week were found to have poorer social emotional outcomes (e.g. more likely to be moody and impulsive). This was particularly the case for children who had been attending a group setting since the first year of their life.

Impact on value for money

A second report, written by Frontier Economics, looks at the longer-term potential value for money of early education. It found that improvements in child development at age 3 and age 4 due to high quality early education and care can potentially save the Government money in the long run due to reduced Special Educational Needs (SEN), truancy, school exclusion, crime, smoking and depression and from improved employment rates and earnings. It also found that full-time early education would need to have considerably larger impacts than part-time early education to offer better value for money.

Commenting on the two reports, PACEY Chief Executive Liz Bayram said:

“The latest reports from the Study of early education and development (SEED) provide yet more robust evidence of the high quality care and education offered by registered childminders, in particular their positive impact on verbal ability, reduced emotional symptoms, and better behavioural self-regulation. This comes in the wake of news that 92 per cent of childminders now have a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted. Yet in spite of these achievements, the number of registered childminders in England has declined by nearly a quarter since 2012. 

“PACEY is very concerned that the introduction of 30 hours of funded childcare in September will lead to a further decline. Only a third of childminders are currently delivering the existing 15-hour entitlement to 3- and 4-year-olds. PACEY’s own research found that childminding is consistently overlooked by parents and local authorities for funded places. Another significant barrier is the low hourly rate, with the average registered childminder expected to experience a shortfall of over £400 per child, per year, for every 30-hour place they offer. 

“The childminding community is crucial to the future of the high quality, flexible childcare and early education families need. With the right support, more childminders could successfully deliver funded hours but we need better recognition, more funding and improved support. If action is not taken, we are going to see more and more childminders leaving the sector, which will have a devastating impact on parental choice and the quality of provision in England.

“Government could do more to make childminding sustainable, including improved funding for the free entitlement; more help with start-up costs; targeted business advice; and peer to peer support. Childminding must be actively championed by national and local government and the health service to parents, so they understand that childminders are more than glorified babysitters; they are providing some of the highest quality care and early education for children and their families.”

“In addition, Frontier Economics’ assessment of value for money shows the wider benefits of public investment in early education. However high quality childminding and other PVI provision are at risk unless they receive the sustainable funding they need to deliver this valuable and cost effective public service.”