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The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project (EPPSE)

By Jon Waldren

Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project (EPPSE)

How the findings of the major UK study into early years education had an impact beyond the classroom.

In 1997 Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) was instigated as the UK’s first major study to focus on the effectiveness of early years education. More than 3,000 children were assessed at the start of pre-school (at approximately three years old) and their development monitored as they entered school until they made their post-16 education, training or employment choices.   Children were assessed at the start of the study and on entering school at primary ages 6, 7, 10 and 11 and secondary ages 14 and 16. A sample of children with no pre-school experience was used as a comparison to the main study.

What were the key findings?

  • Children who had early years education gained higher English and mathematics GCSE results and were more likely to achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A*C.
  • Children who had experienced high quality pre-school education were better at self-regulation, social behavior and less inclined to hyperactivity.
  • Children who had experienced high quality pre-school settings were more likely to follow a post-16 academic path.

Full listing of EPPSE publications

What are the benefits to society of pre-school education?

The EPPSE data was used by the Institute for Fiscal Studies to predict the future economic returns to society of investing in early years education.  The study found that:

  • Attending a pre-school setting increased educational attainment with the resulting increase in lifetime earnings that benefited the Exchequer.
  • Attending a high quality pre-school setting had an estimated lifetime earnings benefit to the individual of £26,788 and £35,993 for an average household.
  • These increased earnings translate into a benefit to the Exchequer of £8,090 per household.

What were the wider effects of the EPPSE findings?

Brenda Taggart speaks to UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina about the findings from the EPPSE project.

  • The EPPSE findings have been widely disseminated across the world and have been cited in reports by UNICEF and UNESCO.
  • The EPPSE study changed thinking and practice in pre-school entitlement, pedagogy, curriculum and teacher education in the UK.
  • In the UK the findings led to free provision of high-quality pre-schooling for all three and four year olds. This has been extended to free entitlement of the poorest 40% (approximately 260,000) two year olds.

Download EPPSE research reports