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Today sees the publication of the latest report from the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED), a major government longitudinal study evaluating early education in England. The report has been written by Professor Edward Melhuish, University of Birkbeck and 4Children, following a study of the quality of childminder provision in England.

The report identifies three key factors distinguishing the quality of care provided by childminders.

Key factors influencing quality include:

  • Participation in a quality improvement network: This had a positive influence on the quality of the childminder’s provision, particularly in distinguishing between those with a ‘good’ rating or higher from those with a lower rating.
  • Years of experience as a childminder: This factor distinguished outstanding settings from the rest.
  • A setting with a lower adult-to-child ratio (less children per adult) was more likely to have an adequate or above quality score, rather than a poor rating. Adult-to-child ratio did not appear to distinguish between the quality delivered at the higher end (adequate to good / outstanding).

The research involved consultants carrying out observational visits and short interviews within 100 childminder settings, focusing on:

  • The characteristics of the childminder i.e. the formal education, training and experience and whether they were part of a quality improvement network or scheme
  • What occurs within the setting i.e. children’s interactions with the childminder and other children, activities, and health and safety
  • The structure of the setting i.e. the child: adult ratio; learning environment and access to simulating play opportunities

Further data from the study include:

  • Three quarters of childminders taking part in the study were registered with the Local Authority to deliver funded places for two year old children
  • Almost half of childminders in the study were providing one or more funded early education places for three and four year olds.
  • Almost all of the childminders were open to care for children with Special Education Needs or Disabilities (SEN/D). On fifth cared for a child with SEN/D
  • Only half of childminders involved in the study were participating in a quality improvement programme or a quality assurance scheme (QIP/QAS)

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