To assess the benefits of funded early education, delivered in a wide range of maintained and private, voluntary and independent settings, my Department commissioned the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education 3-11 (EPPE 3-11) study. This study, which began in 1997, followed 3,000 children from the age of three to the end of Key Stage 2 (at age 11) and will continue to do so until the end of Key Stage 3 at age 14. So far, the study has demonstrated that children who attend pre-school are better prepared for school, have better cognitive and social development at age six and seven (Key Stage 1), with benefits strongest for those who attended high quality pre-school for a longer duration. It has also shown high quality pre-school experience continues to have a positive impact on children’s all round development at age 10.
The EPPE study has also shown it is the quality, rather than ownership of pre-school provision that is most important for improving children’s attainment and that while good quality provision is found across all sectors the maintained sector provides the highest quality provision overall. We want to see quality improve across all types of pre-school provision, and we have reflected this aim in draft statutory guidance to local authorities on the duty in the Childcare Act 2006 to improve outcomes for all children and reduce inequalities between them. The guidance requires local authorities actively to engage with the Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector to improve quality. We have also provided dedicated resource (through the Transformation Fund between 2006-08 and the Graduate Leader Fund from 2008-09) to support the development of graduate leadership in the PVI sector, focusing on full day care settings.
Finally, my Department has also commissioned a number of evaluation studies that will continue to explore the relationship between different types of pre-school provision and child development outcomes including the National Evaluation of Sure Start, a study of child care quality experienced by children in the Millennium Cohort Study, and an evaluation of free child care provision for disadvantaged two-year-olds. Findings from these studies will be published by the Department later in 2008.