DfE have today published the latest report from the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED), focusing on the quality of early years provision delivered by 1000 settings and schools.
Key findings were:
Settings quality was usually at least adequate, with 89% of settings rated adequate or better on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R) measure of overall quality, 56% rated adequate or better on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale: Extension (ECERS-E) measure of quality of educational aspects, and 73% rated
adequate or better on the Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being scale (SSTEW) measure of quality of interactions. The ECERS-E as well as the supporting learning and critical thinking subscale of the SSTEW stand out as areas where there appears to be greatest room for improvement.
All three process quality measures were on average statistically significantly higher at children’s centres and nursery classes / schools than at private and voluntary settings. This was in part explained by differences in structural characteristics, such as staff level of qualification, although findings indicate this does not account for all differences across settings.
A range of structural factors were found to be associated with higher quality at different types of setting, including the mean level of qualifications, staff training plans and budgets, staff turnover rates and the ratio of staff to children.
It may be a cause of concern that the report found the quality of provision for 2-year-olds was slightly lower than for 3- and 4-year-olds:
SSTEW quality of interactions scores were statistically significantly higher at settings for three- to four-year-olds than at the settings for two-year-olds. This difference in quality was partly explained by the higher levels of manager and staff qualification at the settings for three- to four-year-olds.
Commenting on the report, Early Education Chief Executive Beatrice Merrick said:
We welcome the report's findings that the quality of early years provision has increased since the time of the EPPE study, but the gains made are fragile, and will easily be lost if there is not continued investment in the early years workforce. This report reinforces the importance of having well-qualified staff who have regular access to continuing professional development (CPD) - and that 2-year-olds have as much need of staff with higher level qualifications as older children to ensure they receive the quality of provision that they need. The government needs to ramp up its workforce strategy to ensure that we continue to upskill the early years workforce, with regular CPD being available to all. The findings of this report show that early years provision must be funded sufficiently for providers to employ well-qualified staff, and to provide them with regular CPD. We know that as well as cost, availability of good quality training is being affected by the cuts to local authority budgets, and is increasingly subject to a postcode lottery. Any future increase in funding to providers should be tied to measures of quality to ensure that it is investment in what makes most difference to quality, namely staff qualifications and training.
Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit www.early-education.org.uk