Duchess of Cambridge publishes early years research findings

4 December 2020

The Duchess of Cambridge has published the findings of the biggest ever study on the early years in the UK.

In January, the Duchess of Cambridge asked the general public for their views on the early years through the "5 Big Questions on the Under Fives” survey, which attracted over half a million responses.

The research reveals the findings of the survey as well as further qualitative and ethnographic research, a nationally representative survey conducted before the pandemic, and a survey on the impact of Covid-19 on families.

The findings have generated the following “5 Big Insights” into the public’s attitudes to the early years.

  1. People overwhelmingly believe that a child’s future is not pre-determined at birth but most people don’t understand the specific importance of the early years.

  2. The reality of life makes it hard for parents to prioritise their wellbeing.

  3. Feeling judged by others can make a bad situation worse.

  4. People have been separated from family and friends during the pandemic and at the same time parental loneliness has dramatically increased. However, people are also less willing to seek help for how they’re feeling.

  5. During the Covid-19 pandemic, support from local communities has substantially increased for many but not for all.

The research reveals that a significant proportion (69%) of UK parents of a 0 to 5-year-old underestimated the primary importance of the early years which contrasts with the scientific evidence on the early years providing the foundation for children’s future development and their life chances.

The research highlights three main conclusions:

  • the importance of promoting education and dissemination of evidence on the primacy of the early years to parents, parents of the future and the whole of society

  • the need to cultivate and sustain more support networks for parents to enhance their mental health and wellbeing

  • encouraging society as a whole be more supportive of parents, carers and families in the early years.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:

“This report is crucial in showcasing the importance of early years for children’s development, their lifelong learning and therefore their life chances.”

“The results from the survey are clear that parents do not always recognise the very real impact that early education, both within the family and through formal childcare settings, has on their children’s development.”

“Nurseries and their staff are excellent at providing great learning opportunities for children but also supporting families. Early years practitioners are key to developing a child’s foundations for lifelong learning as well as supporting parents to continue learning opportunities at home. These Five Big Insights and the rest of this research must be considered in any policy decisions affecting families and the early years sector - which has been doing fantastic work for children throughout the pandemic.”

The full report is available here.