You are here: Covid and Childcare: Local Impacts Across England

Project overview

This project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, explores the impact of the pandemic on the early years education and care system in England. It will highlight lessons for improvements at both the national and local levels, to support a sustainable, high quality system for the longer term.

COVID-19 has placed unprecedented demands on the English early education and care system, potentially exacerbating longer term weaknesses in the system’s ability to consistently deliver high quality and equitable services. This study addresses five questions:

  1. How is the pandemic affecting children’s and parents’ needs for and access to early education and care services in different local contexts?

  2. How is COVID-19 changing the nature and viability of early education and care provision in different local contexts, and how are services responding?

  3. Has local support for early education and care services mitigated the effects of the pandemic, and how is this mediated by local labour market conditions?

  4. What opportunities and weaknesses in the early education and care system are highlighted by COVID-19, and what can we learn from these about building resilience in the system?

  5. What should the role of local authorities be, and what tools do they need to support the early education and care system in future?

The provision of early education and care services involves the interaction of complex systems, which makes it particularly challenging to unpick the influence of the pandemic. The researchers have mapped the different component parts of the early education and care system and the relationships between them.This map provides the context for exploring the challenges the system faces, and how it could be better managed and adapted to address these challenges.

In order to understand how the system currently reacts to significant shocks, the researchers have collected evidence on the diversity of local authority responses to the COVID-19 crisis within different local contexts across England. Patterns in these local variations will be combined with large scale data from before and during the pandemic to identify how changes in early education and care provision and parental employment over the pandemic period are related to local circumstances and policy reactions.

The study also includes in-depth analysis of the challenges faced by the early education and care system in 10 case study local authorities. Qualitative interviews with parents, providers, local authority early years staff and those with knowledge of the local economy have been carried out to provide comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the views of different stakeholders.

Workshops with national stakeholders will map the findings at a local level into the broader national context. This element of research will place the shorter-term challenges presented by COVID-19 into the context of the longer-term challenges faced by the early education and care system. It will develop options for building resilience in the system, with a focus on the role of local government.

The findings from this project will highlight lessons for improvements in early education and care at both national and local levels, to support a sustainable, high quality system for the longer term. Interim findings were published in summer 2021 and further findings will be made available in autumn 2021, while and the final report will be published in spring 2022.

Study leads 

  • Jane Lewis, Centre for Evidence and Implementation
  • Ivana La Valle, University of East London 

  • Dr Claire Crawford, UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities

  • Professor Eva Lloyd, University of East London

  • Dr Gillian Paull, Frontier Economics 

  • Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare 

  • Dr Sarah Cattan, Institute for Fiscal Studies

  • Dr Ellie Ott, Centre for Evidence and Implementation

  • Georgina Mann, Centre for Evidence and Implementation

 

Findings to date