Birkbeck, University of London

Driving policy change for disadvantaged children

Research into the impact of early childhood education from Birkbeck, University of London was the driving force behind national education policy changes for disadvantaged children.

The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project, led by Birkbeck’s Professor Edward Melhuish, drove the government’s decision to extend free early years provision for disadvantaged children. The study looked at the long-term impact of early childhood education and the home learning environment on educational and social development, monitoring the development of 3000 children from the ages of 3 to 5, and then again at 6, 7, 10, 11, 14 and 16 years.

It found that good quality early education has long-term benefits with a particularly strong impact felt children from disadvantaged backgrounds; and that high quality pre-school education can act as a ‘protective’ factor for children who go on to attend a less effective primary school.

The research was highlighted in several government reviews when extending the provision of state funded early years’ education. The research also demonstrated the critical role of better-qualified early years staff, which has led to new policy recommendations on staff training.

Further reading

Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers, A strategy for social mobility (2011) (EPPE mentioned in Chapter 2)