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EPI and EIF call for more research into impact of funded hours

By Rachel Lawler

Child playing
There is insufficient evidence to support the benefits of funded early education on children’s outcomes, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and Early Intervention Foundation (EIF).
The reports focus on structural quality and process quality in early years education and childcare.
Improving outcomes
Both reports agreed that there was “good evidence” that attending early years provision can improve children’s outcomes. However, they both concluded that further evidence was needed.
The reports said: “Despite the strong consensus that high-quality childcare provision can generate significant sustained improvements in child outcomes. There remains a lack of clarity as to what this high-quality provision looks like in practice.”
They added: “If the government is serious about using early years provision to improve outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children, then it must pay attention to these findings and ensure that the future research agenda is designed to address the evidence gaps we have identified.”
Serious gaps
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “It’s clear from the reports released today that that high-quality, low-ratio early years provision is hugely important to effective provision and that early intervention is a vital means of ensuring children are capable of achieving their full potential when they start school – these conclusions will come as little to surprise to anyone working in the early years sector. 
“However, both reports also raise important concerns about the serious gaps in the evidence being used to underpin the development of early years policy in this country. If the government truly is committed to supporting young children’s learning, and particular those children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, it must ensure that these evidence gaps are filled.
"Our youngest children deserve an early education built on what has been proven to work, not one hampered by government schemes and initiatives launched primarily to secure votes and positive headlines – something that we seem to be seeing more and more often in recent years. 
“Of course, one thing that the key markers of early years quality highlighted particularly in the EPI report – namely, low child-adult ratios and high staff qualification – have in common is that they come at a cost. As such, if ministers are serious about improving and maintaining early years quality, they should follow the evidence and start ensuring that funding matches the true cost of delivering childcare so that providers are able to deliver the kind of quality care and education that young children need and deserve.”
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