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Insight 13/02/2024

High-quality education in the early years

High-quality early years education – in the first five years of life – is a hugely important foundation for lifelong learning and behaviour. An increasing number of governments around the world are recognising its importance and are reorientating their understanding of early years provision to focus on not just childcare, but more on early education. Here, we consider this growing interest and the importance of high-quality training and development for early years educators in optimising their environments and thereby giving children a strong start in life.

A child’s first five years are some of their most formative in life. During this crucial period, children’s brains are at their most potent stage of development, and they are developing critical physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional skills which will be fundamental to their future achievements in education and adult life. In this context, countries need to pay attention to the quality of children’s early years education as the most effective means to assure the wellbeing and skills of the next generation – and to achieve more equitable outcomes across families and communities. 

In this think piece, we examine not only the importance of this critical period, but also draw on our own expertise in the delivery of professional development for early years educators. We use this experience to highlight both the challenges faced by those teaching the youngest children, and the key opportunities for improving both their practice and the eventual learning outcomes of the children in their care, with attention to communication and language development, early mathematics, and personal, social and emotional development (PSED), as well as leadership within early education settings.  

To find out more about our work with early years educators, click here to learn about our Early Years Professional Development Programme (EYPDP), here to learn about our National Professional Qualification in Early Years Leadership (NPQEYL), or here for our Early Years Skills Bootcamps.


High-quality education in the early years

Early years are some of the most formative in life. During this period, children’s brains are in the most potent stage of development and as a result, they learn at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives. In this time, they are developing crucial physical, cognitive and socio-emotional skills, which are fundamental for their future achievements in education and in adult life. High-quality early years education is therefore hugely important. It sets the foundation for lifelong learning and behaviour: the experiences children have early in their childhood shape their brains and capacity to learn, to form good relationships, and to develop resilience to life’s challenges.

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