Only high-quality early years provision has a measurable effect on children’s outcomes according to new research by the London School of Economics.

The report is warning, ahead of the general election on 12 December, that political parties should be focusing on quality funded childcare rather than the number of hours available in order to improve child development.

LSE has called on the main parties to make child development a focus of childcare policies as well as supporting mothers to go back to work and easing financial pressures for working parents.

The election briefing says that spending more months receiving early education substantially improves child development only when the child attends a provision rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted. The researchers at the university’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) also raised concerns over social mobility, suggesting “disadvantaged families struggle to access high-quality provision”.

Jo Blanden, reader in economics at the University of Surrey and a research associate at CEP, said:

“The evidence shows that policies to expand provision of free childcare have eased family finances for working parents but have not been very successful in improving children’s educational outcomes.”

“To have effects on children’s educational outcomes, there would need to be a focus on the quality of provision, which would require substantial investment.”

The report says that there needs to be a debate on whether universal coverage or targeted spending on quality provision is a better use of public funds.

The full report, CEP Election Analysis 2019: Education and Skills, is available here.

Last reviewed 9 December 2019