Inequalities in early education in England
This ongoing work builds on previous projects funded by the Nuffield Foundation (see below). Using data from the National Pupil Database, we are exploring inequalities in children's access to high quality early education and care (ECEC) by background (income, ethnicity and EAL), and how these have changed over the past decade.
The project examines continuity and change in (i) the take-up of funded early education places by children from different backgrounds; (ii) the extent to which children from more disadvantaged backgrounds attend some types of setting (e.g. settings with more qualified staff) more than others; (iii) the extent to which children are clustered with other, similar children in their pre-school (e.g. low income children with low-income peers); (iv) stability of transition from nursery to reception.
Prior research tells us that all these factors are important to children's development and later outcomes, and that policy levers can make a difference. Outputs from our previous projects focused on patterns of attendance for a cohort of children born in 2006-07. We are now seeking to update this work for the subsequent decade, asking how the landscape has been affected by recent policy changes including the extension of free places to some two-year-olds, the introduction of an additional 15 funded hours for children in working families, and changes to funding levels and funding formulae.
Associate Director of CASE and Associate Professor in Social Policy, LSE
British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, CASE
Research Officer, CASE
Visiting Fellow, CASE and UCL Institute of Education and DIW Berlin
Previous related projects
Researchers: Dr Kitty Stewart, Dr Ludovica Gambaro and Dr Tammy Campbell
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation's Early Years Education and Childcare programme
Duration: 1 January 2016 - 31 August 2018
This project focused primarily on patterns of clustering by socioeconomic group in early education and the association between pre-school peer group and outcomes in early primary school. As part of the project, we also looked at take-up of funded early education by children’s background, exploring the relationship between inequalities in take-up and the types of provision available locally. In addition, we conducted some provisional work on the stability of transitions between pre-school settings and reception, examining the share of peers in reception class familiar to the child from pre-school, and how this varies by children's background and relative age.
Campbell, Tammy, Gambaro, Ludovica and Stewart, Kitty (2019) Inequalities in the experience of early education in England: access, peer groups and transitions. CASEpapers (214). Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
Stewart, Kitty, Campbell, Tammy and Gambaro, Ludovica (2019) The peer composition of pre-school settings in England, and early recorded attainment among low-income children. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 40 (6). 717 - 741. ISSN 0142-5692
Campbell, Tammy, Gambaro, Ludovica and Stewart, Kitty (2018) "Universal" early education: who benefits? Patterns in take-up of the entitlement to free early education among three-year-olds in England. British Educational Research Journal, 44 (3). pp. 515-538. ISSN 0141-1926
Early childhood education and care: improving quality AND affordability
Researchers: Dr Kitty Stewart, Dr Ludovica Gambaro and Professor Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University, New York).
Duration: September 2011 - December 2012
This project investigated the three-way relationship between quality of provision, affordability and children's background. It examined differences in provision within the four UK nations, and then focused in on the extent to which more disadvantaged children in England have access to the highest quality ECEC provision, using the National Pupil Database.
The project also looked beyond the UK, examining the mechanisms through which other countries deliver high quality ECEC. The countries included were Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the USA. Experts from each country were asked to what extent good quality ECEC services are accessible to children from lower-income families and what policies promote equality of access. The aim of this comparative exercise was to better understand not only variations in the level of public spending, but also the precise ways in which the funding and regulatory systems of different countries are effective in ensuring that services are both affordable and of high quality. The outputs from this part of their project were published in an edited book published by The Policy Press.
Gambaro, Ludovica, Stewart, Kitty and Waldfogel, Jane (2016) An equal start? Providing high quality early education and care for disadvantaged children. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Gambaro, Ludovica, Stewart, Kitty and Waldfogel, Jane (2015) A question of quality: do children from disadvantaged backgrounds receive lower quality early childhood education and care? British Educational Research Journal, 41 (4). pp. 553-574. ISSN 0141-1926.