Our expertise in the UK

Early Years: improving outcomes for disadvantaged children

We have worked with the early years sector for several years, reaching many young children across the UK through our programmes. The period from birth to the age of five offers a unique opportunity to ensure children develop the cognitive, social and emotional foundations for success in both school and later life – and high-quality early years provision can significantly benefit children’s later outcomes, especially among disadvantaged groups.

The importance of early years provision

We know that ensuring children are given the right development support from an early age can make a real difference. Development gaps and ‘word gaps’ can emerge early in a child’s life, and their effects can be felt throughout their school lives – and even into adulthood. For instance, an average of 40% of the development gap between disadvantaged 16-year-olds and their peers had already emerged by the time they were five years old [1]. By the age of just three, disadvantaged children are, on average, almost a year and a half behind their peers in their language development, and children who are behind in language development at the age of five are six times less likely to reach expected standards in English by the age of eleven, and are eleven times less likely to reach these standards in mathematics [2].

Early years education is an important area for us, not least because early years interventions for less advantaged children are hugely important to promoting their success later in their education, ultimately leading to a better life in a number of ways. We are therefore pleased to see this important topic moving up the agenda in governments across the UK. In England, for example, the Department for Education is seeking to halve the number of children finishing their Reception year without the early communication and reading skills they need to thrive by 2028.

Supporting early years settings

Evidence increasingly suggests that specialised training for early years staff is a more promising means of raising the quality of early years provision than either increasing the number of hours children attend or improving the physical environment. These practitioners have a critically important role in enabling the best possible outcomes for the children they work with, helping them to overcome the challenges and circumstances which may otherwise hold them back. We therefore support early years practitioners in our work with expert professional development to build and refine their skills.

Our Early Years Professional Development Programme (EYPDP) supports early years practitioners working with disadvantaged and vulnerable children in pre-reception settings, helping them to improve their practice and children’s outcomes in communication and language, mathematics and PSED (Personal, Social and Emotional Development). In October 2022, we were delighted to be awarded the DfE’s contract to continue to deliver the EYPDP, now moving into its third phase and available throughout England.

In this contract, which will run until the spring of 2025 and be delivered across four cohorts, we will provide government funded professional development to up to 10,000 early years practitioners in England. Forming part of the Government’s Early Years Recovery package to improve outcomes for those most affected by the pandemic, through driving up quality in early years education, the EYPDP will be available to all 152 local authorities across the country.

As with the first two phases of the programme, the training will support practitioners who work in settings attended by children aged 2-4 and will consist of a blended mix of online e-Learning and facilitated webinars. Practitioners will cover tailored content with modules based on current early years pedagogy covering Communication and Language, Early Mathematics and PSED. 

[1], [2] Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential; Department for Education; 2017. 


Visit the Early Years Professional Development Programme website for further information.

Early Years Professional Development Programme