Starting Well report - CREC involved in research about preschool in 45 countries



CREC has been part of the research programme Starting Well: Benchmarking early education across the world. The report which ranks the preschool environments in 45 countries was commisioned by the Lieu Foundation and managed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). During the construction of this white paper, CREC has interviewed a number of childcare experts, academics, practitioners and policy specialists and the report  findings have now been published.

According to the research, the UK offers one of the best preschool programmes in the world. The data reflects the importance given to Early Childhood Education (ECE) in the UK, even with the sharp cuts in social spending as a result of the economic crisis the country has faced in recent years. The Starting Well Index assesses the level to which governments provide a good, inclusive and affordable early childhood educational environment for children aged 3 to 6.

The UK performs well in all four index categories—the ‘Availability’, ‘Affordability’ and ‘Quality’ of their preschool environments, as well as the broad ‘Social context’, which examines how healthy and ready for school children are. Across all categories the UK came out 4th overall.

The Nordic countries top the ranking with Finland (1st), Sweden (2nd) and Norway (3rd) rated as having the world’s three best preschool environments. In total, 16 of the top 20 countries are European.

The research suggests that increased government investment in ECE, if directed well, can benefit society. ‘It is about those very young children who are going to grow up as successful lifelong learners and citizens making an economic contribution to society’, says Professor Christine Pascal from The Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC), who co –authored the report.

The report also concludes that the UK is ahead of many countries by providing free universal preschool from the age of three to all children (15 hours a week) plus a additional subsidies to disadvantaged parents (tax credits). Such initiatives help families to pay for additional childcare on top of the basic provided as well as giving the parents the option to work longer.

Professor Pascal added that ‘the UK has ranked very highly in this international pre-school comparison study, a fact that it should celebrate and be proud of.  The reason why the UK has performed so well in this study is that it offers a universal and affordable system of good quality provision for all children regardless of background or family income. The question now for the government is how it can continue to support and sustain investment in the sector to not only maintain these high standards but also improve further to become an internationally held exemplar of good practice’.

Key findings of the report include:  

  • Many high income countries rank poorly – Australia, Canada, Singapore and the US for example;
  • Poorer countries manage to deliver widespread preschool services despite their low per capita income – Chile and Czech Republic for example;
      • Basic progress is still required  - regardless of their economy, countries should be able to provide guidelines and quality standards, even if these cannot be properly enforced;
      • Investment in teacher training and educations, clear curriculum guidelines and parental involvement are the main drivers for success.


    For more information about the report, press or other enquiries, please contact CREC on +44 (0) 1214640020

    Professor Pascal is also available to comment on the report findings.  Please use the details above for more information.

    Newsletter Sign-up