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Early education and outcomes to age 4

As part of the longitudinal study of early education and development (SEED), the Department for Education have released research into the impact of early education at ages 2-4 on child outcomes at age 4, and the importance of the early years home environment. 

Key findings:

  • The amount and type of early childhood education and care (ECEC) attended between ages two and four are both associated with a number of cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes at age four.
  • Better non-verbal reasoning ability and better socio-emotional outcomes were associated with more hours spent in formal group ECEC (e.g. nursery classes, nursery schools, day nurseries and playgroups).  
  • More hours with childminders was associated with lower levels of Emotional Symptoms.
  • The study found that more hours spent in informal individual ECEC settings (e.g. with relatives, friends, neighbours) was associated with better language development at age four.
  • The findings suggest that use of ECEC has a largely positive benefit on cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes at age four for children across the advantage-disadvantage spectrum. 
  • Evidence was shown that attending better quality childcare settings between ages two and four had a positive impact on some aspects of children’s cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes measured at age four.
  • The report indicated the value of high quality ECEC provision, and suggests that efforts to further improve the quality of provision may be expected to lead to further improved child outcomes.
  • Several cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes at age four were significantly associated with variations in the home environment, particularly the quality of the parent/child relationship, maternal qualifications and the Home Learning Environment.
  • The advantages of a more stimulating and responsive Home Learning Environment and the beneficial effects of time in ECEC are largely independent. This suggests that even children with the most stimulating home learning environments still stand to benefit from spending time in ECEC.

Read the full report