Assessing the value for money in early education

Assessing the value for money in early education

The Department for Education recently published Frontier’s report on the value for money of early education.

This report is part of the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED), an eight-year study being undertaken by NatCen Social Research, the University of Oxford, Action for Children and Frontier Economics to explore how childcare and early education can give children the best start in life and the factors which are important for the delivery of high quality provision.

Today’s report builds on previous work by Frontier collecting cost data for the delivery of early education and the development of a model to estimate the lifetime financial returns to improvements in child development outcomes at ages three and four. The value for money analysis combined the cost data with estimated monetary valuations of the impacts on child development to compare the potential financial return for each pound invested across different types of provision and for children with different levels of disadvantage.

There were several key findings on the financial return for each pound spent:

  • The returns were generally higher for early education at age two than for early education at age three, driven by larger impacts which were not outweighed by a higher delivery cost for early education at age two.
  • The return was generally higher for children attending childminders than for other types of providers such as private nurseries and nursery classes, primarily reflecting larger impacts rather than lower costs.
  • There was no consistent pattern in the return across setting quality level, reflecting an absence of strong associations between cost and quality or between impact and quality.

The returns were higher for children in the moderately and least disadvantaged groups than those in the most disadvantaged group: although there were higher annual costs for children in the moderately and least disadvantaged groups, these were outweighed by higher impacts.

Frontier regularly works with public and private sector clients on issues related to education. For more information, please contact [email protected] or call +44 (0) 20 7031 7000.