Attending a nursery with an outstanding Ofsted rating has ‘limited benefits’ for children’s education, says new research from the University of Surrey.

The report, published last month, showed that a child’s educational achievement at the end of their reception year is only very slightly higher if they had been taught by a qualified teacher or attended an outstanding nursery.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), looked at the information of 1.6 million children born between September 2003 and August 2006.

While children who attended an outstanding nursery, or one with graduate staff, did do better in reception class, the effects were extremely small.

The UK government is currently spending £2 billion a year free early years education for three and four year olds in England. Yet this report questions whether that money is being spent wisely.

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Dr Jo Blanden, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Surrey, comments:

“Successive governments have focused on improving staff qualifications, based on the belief that these are important for children’s learning. Our research finding that having a graduate working in the nursery has only a tiny effect on children’s outcomes surprised us.

“It is possible that it is driven by the types of qualifications held by those working in private nurseries, they are not generally equivalent to the qualifications of teachers in nursery classes in schools.’

“Some nurseries are helping children to do better than others, but this is not related to staff qualifications or Ofsted ratings.’

“It is extremely important to discover the factors that lead to a high quality nursery experience so we can maximise children’s chances to benefit developmentally from attending nursery, particularly as the government extends the entitlement from 15 to 30 hours.”