Impact of pre-school lasts all the way to sixth form

The DfE, in the latest paper from its ‘Effective pre-school, primary and secondary education (EPPSE)’ study, reports that pre-school education and home learning environment still have an impact on children aged 16 or 17, although the effect disappears by the time they take A-levels.

This research is a follow up to an earlier study (Influences on students’ development at age 16) which suggested pre-school and the early years home learning environment (HLE) shaped students’ GCSE attainment.

The summarised key findings presented are


  • There are continuing effects of pre-school at age 17. EPPSE students who had attended any pre-school were more likely to enter AS-level exams (mostly taken at age 17) than those who had not. In addition, if they attended a high quality pre-school they were twice as likely as those who hadn’t attended pre-school to take AS-levels.
  • However, for most students the pre-school effect had disappeared by the time they took A-levels (generally at age 18) as there were no continuing effects of pre-school at entry to A-level exams or on the grades students achieved in them.
  • Separate analysis for the Sutton Trust (Sammons, Toth and Sylva, 2015) showed that there is lasting impact of pre-school for the specific sub-group of disadvantaged young people who were classed as ‘high achievers’ at the end of primary school.

Home learning environment

  • The quality of the home learning environment EPPSE students experienced before they attended school does have a continuing effect at ages 17 and 18. EPPSE students who experienced a good early HLE were more likely to enter AS-levels, A-levels, and have higher attainment in terms of KS5 point scores…

The summarised conclusions presented are:

Given the earlier findings of significant effects on GCSE outcomes, and the latest results on AS and A-level entry, it appears that the early years effects of pre-school largely operate through boosting students’ GCSE results (and through this the chances of entering the academic route and taking AS and A-levels) rather than continuing to affect overall attainment in advanced level examinations up to age 18. However the early years HLE shows a continued effect on overall A-level attainment.

More at: Pre-school and early home learning: effects on A level outcomes


Read or download the paper in full:

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Your thoughts, feedback and insights into these findings on the astonishing long term impact of early years education?

One question is whether the research manages to disentangle the likelihood that the quality of pre-school and early home learning is just a proxy for a more advantaged upbringing and this, rather than anything else, is ultimately the racial factor on long term outcomes?

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Categories: Parenting, Pre-school and Research.


  1. AndrewSabisky

    EarlyyearsRosa EYTalking according to an observational study with dubious controls & no way to account for selection on unobservables

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