Seeing and shaping the road ahead

The About Early Years research programme

By Dr Jo Verrill, Managing Director, Ceeda

Article from January 2018 issue of Your Voice.

Ceeda is a private sector research agency specialising in early years research.

For too long now, the early years sector has struggled to get timely information to guide management and investment decisions and shape policy direction. From delivery costs to workforce challenges, reliable, timely sector data is hard to come by, leaving many questions. What will our delivery costs be this time next year; will this be sustainable? Is our pay structure competitive? How can we reduce staff turnover? Are our occupancy levels typical? If we invest in future growth will there be the demand? 

History tells us that this knowledge gap will not be filled by government-led research: it is time for a different solution. Led by independent researchers, informed by a sector advisory group and sponsored by organisations with a passion for early education, the About Early Years research programme was launched in May 2017.

Researchers at Ceeda are recruiting a representative panel of 3,000 private, voluntary and independent nurseries and pre-schools and 1,000 childminders in England. Surveyed three times a year, the panel provides regular measures of key statistics such as capacity and occupancy, with each wave also covering a specific subject focus.

In summer 2017, the spotlight was on recruitment difficulties and, for the first time, a hard figure was put on the number of sector vacancies – a staggering 24,600 posts.

In the autumn term, it was 30-hours. The next wave, in March 2018, will focus on workforce development. Insight from each survey wave feeds into ongoing analysis of sector delivery costs.

There has been a very positive start to the research programme, with 1,600 nurseries and pre-schools and over 400 childminders registering on the panel in 2017. This is a step-change in collecting systematic intelligence which can genuinely shed light on what is happening in the sector, in a timely and robust way.

Getting involved

Voice members working in private, voluntary and independent early years settings can register to join the panel. As a panel member, you enjoy tailored analysis of research results, delivering meaningful evidence you can access quickly and use with confidence. 

The Pre-school Learning Alliance is taking a lead role as founding sponsor of the About Early Years programme. Chief Executive Neil Leitch said: ‘Having worked with Ceeda on a number of research projects, we are pleased and excited to be part of this new venture. We know first-hand the value of robust, independent early years research and at a time of intense sector debate, About Early Years will provide a vital intelligence base from which to inform and influence early years policy.’

The London Early Years Foundation is also playing a key strategic role as sponsor of the ‘Quality and Capacity’ research theme. June O’Sullivan, Chief Executive at LEYF, said: ‘The sector has been rocked by recruitment, retention and funding problems, due mainly to ill-conceived government policy. Whatever the cause, we have a duty to step up to the plate, find our own solutions and keep children firmly at the centre. Ceeda is an independent organisation well respected in the sector. This is an opportunity to come together as a sector and shape our own future – if we don’t, who will?’

Project sponsors also include the Childbase Partnership, Connect Childcare and NEyTCO. We are inviting everyone with an interest in early years to get involved and support this vital work. Find out more at, or contact Jo on 0845 6800631.

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