Early childhood policy and practice in England: twenty years of change

Faulkner, Dorothy and Coates, Elizabeth A. (2013). Early childhood policy and practice in England: twenty years of change. International Journal of Early Years Education, 21(2/3) pp. 244–263.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2013.832945

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/096697...


This article offers a chronological account and critical appraisal of changes to early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in England over the past 20 years. It describes the policy initiatives, educational interventions and research programmes introduced by successive governments that have effected significant changes to ECEC since 1990. The article covers four key areas: policies designed to reduce social inequality; the professionalisation of the children’s workforce, and changing status of adults employed in pre-school education and care settings; changes to early years pedagogy and the early years curriculum; and finally how major research programmes such as the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project and the Millennium Cohort Study have informed our understanding of the effects of social disadvantage and the characteristics of ‘high-quality’ pre-school provision that can alleviate this. There is now persuasive evidence that investment in state-maintained early education is highly cost effective, particularly for disadvantaged children. The current government, however, is shifting the burden of funding for professional training and high-quality integrated services for children and families from the state to the private and voluntary sectors. Time will tell if this is a backward step or movement in the right direction.

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