Table of Contents

  • This publication is intended to be a quick reference guide for anyone with a role to play in encouraging quality through England’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) curriculum.

  • Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is receiving increased policy interest in England, as improving quality in the ECEC sector is a subject of growing importance. England considers improving quality through family and community engagement as a priority, as cooperation between the ECEC sector, parents and the community can contribute to providing a more continuous child development process. Parental and community engagement can also strengthen the quality of parenting and the home-learning environment. Additionally, it can enhance children’s early development and mitigate the negative effects of family background. The continuity of children’s experiences across different environments is greatly enhanced when ECEC centres co-operate with parents and communities and adopt consistent approaches to child development and learning.

  • Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is becoming a policy priority in many countries. A growing body of research recognises that it provides a wide range of benefits, including social and economic benefits, better child well-being and learning outcomes as a foundation for lifelong learning, more equitable outcomes and reduction of poverty, and increased intergenerational social mobility. But these positive benefits are directly related to the “quality” of ECEC.

  • England performs above the OECD average on most ECEC outcome indicators but underperforms on others. On participation, England has a relatively large share of children attending some form of ECEC. On child outcome indicators, England performs well in reading and science. Possible policy changes from an international comparative perspective include improving maternal labour market participation of mothers with young children and improving students’ performance on PISA mathematics.

    On policy input indicators, England performs below average on possibilities for paid paternity leave and the quality indicator “staff-child ratio” in child care. However, England has above-average public expenditure levels on young children and family benefits and maternity leave entitlements. England could consider improving possibilities for parental leave for fathers and implementing better staff-child ratios.
  • Parental and community engagement can improve the quality of ECEC provision, the quality of parenting and the home-learning environment. Additionally, it can enhance children’s early development and mitigate the negative effects of family background. The continuity of children’s experiences across different environments is greatly enhanced when ECEC centres cooperate with parents and communities and adopt consistent approaches to child development and learning.

    The factors of family and community engagement that matter most in enhancing the quality of ECEC and children’s development are: the quality of the home-learning environment; parenting skills; participation in ECEC activities; partnerships between parents, communities and ECEC centres; and partnerships with the wider community. A combination of these approaches is also possible. Sound research on the effects of family and community engagement approaches and evaluations of engagement initiatives are needed.
  • In England, the importance and value of involving parents and communities in providing good care and education for young children is increasingly recognised. England has a clear government plan to enhance parental and community engagement; involves parents in evaluating ECEC services; has plans to strengthen the co-operation between ECEC and health services; targets disadvantaged families to decrease inequity; and supports young parents.

    Capitalising upon its strengths, England could further enhance quality in ECEC through strengthening parental and community engagement. Other country practices would suggest such options as: 1) reflecting on approaches to involve parents and communities; 2) reflecting parental views and opinions in ECEC programming; 3) reflecting upon societal changes to meet family and children’s needs, such as the increase in divorce rates, full-time working parents, increasing income inequality and increasing immigrant populations; and 4) further improving communication skills of ECEC staff.
  • Common challenges countries face in engaging families and communities in ECEC are: 1) lack of awareness and motivation; 2) communication and outreach; 3) time constraints; 4) increasing inequity; and 5) co-operation with other services and levels of education.

    England has made several efforts to tackle these challenges by, for example, revising entitlement to free hours of ECEC to meet parental needs. To further their efforts, England could consider strategies implemented by New Zealand, Nordic countries and the United States, such as involving parents in curriculum development; training staff specifically on communication and co-operation with community services; setting flexible times for contact hours between staff and parents; developing specialised parenting home programmes; and bridging between ECEC provisions and different community services.
  • Parental and community engagement refers to the formal and informal relations between parents or community members with ECEC services. The scope of community includes, for example, neighbourhoods, NGOs, faith organisations, private foundations and services focusing on child development, such as social and health services.

  • Ten indicators have been selected to compare England’s child outcomes with other OECD countries based on the available data for international comparison.

  • Nine indicators have been selected to compare England’s policy inputs2 with other OECD countries based on the available data for international comparison