The report on the features of good practice is one of four from the longitudinal Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) published today.
SEED is following 6,000 children from the age of two to seven, the end of Key Stage 1. The study is being carried out by NatCen Social Research, working with the University of Oxford, Action for Children and Frontier Economics, on behalf of the Department for Education.
The other reports on meeting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities in the early years, and experiences of the early years pupil premium are also by NatCen Social Research.
They draw on case studies and in-depth interviews with nursery managers, staff and parents.
The good practice in early education report is based on 16 case studies across England with a range of early years settings assessed by 4Children as having good or excellent provision.
The study has identified features of good practice in early education in relation to learning and development; management and leadership; staff recruitment, retention and development; and engagement with parents and home learning.
In reflecting on what good practice looks like across these areas, three broad cross-cutting themes emerged – the importance of tailoring practice to the needs of the child above all other considerations; a skilled and experienced workforce and an open and reflective culture.
Dr Svetlana Speight, research director at NatCen Social Research, told Nursery World, that there was ‘a wealth of findings’.
'We're trying to understand every day practice, what people do, what works best. You can see people do amazing things with limited funds', she said.
The report on SEN involved interviews with parents and their child’s key worker, and the EYPP report has in-depth interviews with settings to see how they are using the funding and what difference it can make.
A report from SEED looking at measuring the quality of provision will be published in the spring.
Dr Speight said, ‘We’re trying to understand what people are doing on the ground that is achieving good quality. Exploring whether attending good quality early years provision has a positive impact on these children’s outcomes is one of the main aims of this study and will be the focus of future reports from SEED.’
The Pre-school Learning Alliance welcomed the report's recognition of the importance of such a child-focused approach in the early years - such as maintaining high-staff child ratios, focusing on personal, social and emotional development, and tailoring assessment processes to the individual needs of each child.
Chief executive Neil Leitch said, 'At a time when government policy is increasingly focused on efficiencies, accountability and measurable progress, it is positive to see this research recognise that good practice is practice that puts the child first.
'We also welcome the report's recognition of the value of high-quality early years staff, and that staff quality is defined not only by qualification level, but also by experience and the ability to interact positively with young children.
'Government decisions on early years education should be grounded in good practice and so, at a time of such change for the sector, we hope that the DfE will take the findings of this research on board and use it to inform future policy decisions.'
Frontier Economics has published the fourth report on the cost and funding of early education, based on visits to a range of private, voluntary, independent and maintained settings.
- For more analysis on the findings of the latest SEED reports see the next issue of Nursery World out on 6 February.