Evaluating the Impact of Nursery Attendance on Children’s Outcomes


Start date: 1 January 2013
End date: 31 December 2014


This project seeks to investigate the impact of nursery education on children’s outcomes.  It will focus specifically on the expansion in provision which occurred following the 1998 National Childcare Strategy and continued throughout the 2000s.  This led to free part-time nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds and a large increase in the number of nursery places, while at the same time childcare subsidies to low income families were made through the Working Families Tax Credit. We will examine the impact of these policies on children’s cognitive and social development.

This project is supported by the Nuffield Foundation


We will first ask if children who attend pre-school/nursery for longer do better.  We do this by identifying children who start younger or use more hours as a consequence of Government intervention in the childcare market.  Our datasets will enable us to track children’s outcomes through to primary school, and consider academic, social and behavioural development.

Our second question is to look at the impact of the quality of the childcare setting, an aspect which has been shown to be crucial in observational studies.  This can be studied by using data on OFSTED reports and the qualifications and wage rates of those who work in nurseries.

Finally, we will investigate the role of family background.  There are two main questions: Does access depend on family background? Does the impact of nursery attendance depend on family background?  This will be related to the concern about quality, as we consider the quality profile of settings by children’s characteristics and location.


On 22nd October 2014 our research on the impact on the free entitlement on children’s educational outcomes was presented at the House of Lords Select Committee on Affordable Childcare.  A briefing note which presents our evidence alongside the evidence on the impact of the free entitlement on maternal employment can be found here.  The current version of our paper “Evaluating a demand-side approach to expanding free pre-school education” by Jo Blanden, Emilia Del Bono, Kirstine Hansen, Sandra McNally and Birgitta Rabe can be found here.

Read more in our news story.


The project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Kirstine Hansen of the Institute for Education. 


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