Evaluating the impact of nursery attendance on children’s outcomes

About the project

Following the 1998 National Childcare Strategy, nursery and pre-school provision in the UK expanded dramatically. Three- and four-year-olds were given free part-time nursery education, and childcare subsidies were offered to low income families through the Working Families Tax Credit. Today, the current government has committed to extending free nursery to the most deprived two-year-olds by 2015.

This project seeks to investigate the impact of these policies on children’s cognitive and social development. Rules for when children qualify for free part-time pre-school, eligibility requirements for tax credits, and increased nursery provision in certain areas has led to differences in the amount of pre-school education children receive. Using data from the Department for Education’s Early Years Census and the Millennium Cohort Study, this project aims to determine the causal impact of nursery care and early education on child outcomes. Researchers will pay particular attention to the quality of childcare settings, and differences in access across socio-economic groups.

This project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation from January 2013 to December 2014.

Key research questions:

  • Do children who attend pre-school/nursery for longer do better?
  • What is the impact of the quality of the childcare setting?
  • Does access depend on family background? Does the impact of nursery attendance depend on family background?
CLS contact

Kirstine Hansen,

Reader in Social Policy

Email Kirstine

Other team members

Jo Blanden, Principal Investigator, University of Surrey

Sandra McNally, Co-Investigator, University of Surrey

Useful links