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Out of school activities improve children’s educational attainment, study

This working paper was first published in April 2016 by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education and University College London 

Participating in organised sports and joining after school clubs can help to improve primary school children’s academic performance and social skills, new research shows.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, researchers from NatCen Social Research, Newcastle University and ASK Research analysed information on more than 6,400 English children born in 2000-01 who are being followed by the Millennium Cohort Study.

Children taking part in organised sports and physical activities at the ages of 5, 7 and 11 were almost one and a half times more likely to reach a higher than expected level in their Key Stage 2 (KS2) maths test at age 11. No relationship was found between organised sports and activities and KS2 English and science scores.

Among disadvantaged children, those who attended after school clubs also fared better than their peers who did not take part in such groups. They achieved on average, a 2-point higher total score in their KS2 assessments in English, maths and science at the end of primary school.


Lighting up young brains

Save the Children | Published 2016 |  Jerome Finnegan, with support from Kayte Lawton

How parents, carers and nurseries support children’s brain development in the first five years 

From birth to age two the brain goes through a period of rapid development and growth

During the first two years of life the brain displays a remarkable capacity to absorb information and adapt to its surroundings.

  • A fully-grown adult brain has an estimated 86 billion neurons, the majority of which are already formed in the womb (Herculano-Houzel 2009, Goswami 2015).

  • By age one, the size of a child’s brain is already 72% of adult volume on average and by age two it has grown to 83% of an adult’s volume on average (Knickmeyer et. al. 2008).

  • At age two, the connections that are being formed in a child’s brain are happening about twice as fast as in an adult’s brain (Stiles & Jernigan 2010).

    Between age three to five the brain starts to process information in more efficient and complex ways


Report evaluating the impacts of Tax-Free Childcare and the Free Early Education Entitlement

DfE | February 2016

Frontier Economics has prepared a report for the DfE looking at the potential impact of Tax Free Childcare and the extension of the free places to 30 hours in England on parental work and the childcare market. The report shows that these policies have the potential to create incentives to raise employment rates and average weekly working hours for parents. At the same time these policies have the potential to create some uncertainties in the childcare market. They could raise the number of places and quality of the care offered by childcare providers, but also impact on pricing structures and on the offer of places to children not eligible for the free entitlement.


Entitlement to free early education and childcare

NAO | 2 March 2016

Key facts

  • £2.7bn allocated for free childcare
  • 1.5m children receiving funded in 2015-16
  • 105,000 providers of childcare in England, 2015
  • 290,000 increase in the number of children receiving funded childcare since 2010
  • 85% the proportion of settings rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted
  • £3,000 the average difference between what local authorities fund per 3- and 4-year-old over a year, from £4,000 in the authority that funds at the highest rate to £1,000 in the authority that funds at the lowest
  • 390,000 the number of children the Department for Education estimates will be eligible for the new entitlement to an extra 15 hours per week
  • £5,000 the amount the Department for Education estimates 30 hours of childcare per child per year is potentially worth to parents
  • 80% of places already occupied in full day-care settings in 2013
  • 70% the proportion of parents not aware of their local authority’s Family Information Service


Childcare Survey 2016

Family and Childcare Trust | February 2016

Key findings from the annual Childcare Survey include:

  • Just 45 per cent of councils in England had enough childcare for parents who work full time, despite obligations under the Childcare Act 2006. In Scotland, a meagre 13 per cent reported having enough childcare for these parents.
  • Only 15 per cent of councils in England had enough childcare for disabled children, compared to 21 per cent in 2015.
  • A part-time nursery place (25 hours) for a child under two rose by 1.1 per cent last year, and is now on average £116.77 a week in Britain. However, in London, the most expensive region, prices for the same place rose by 2.2 per cent in one year.


Net Children | Go Mobile Report 2014

The UK report | A comparative report with findings from the UK 2010 survey by EU Kids Online 

This report presents new UK-specific findings from Net Children Go Mobile regarding children’s online access, opportunities, risks and parental mediation. It compares these with the seven country European 2013 survey by Net Children Go Mobile ( and with findings from the UK 2010 survey by EU Kids Online (

Please cite as: Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Vincent, J., Mascheroni, G. and Ólafsson, K. (2014). Net Children Go Mobile: The UK Report. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

Acknowledgements: The authors thank the Net Children Go Mobile and the EU Kids Online networks. Both were funded by the EC Better Internet for Kids programme. 


Being overweight or obese could cause around 700,000 new UK cancers by 2035

UKHF | Published 7 January 2016 

A new report from the UK Health Forum and Cancer Research UK has found that rising rates of obesity and overweight could lead to 700,000 new cancer cases in the UK, as well as millions of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. This would cost the NHS an additional £2.5 billion a year by 2035 over and above what is already spent on obesity related disease. 
On the plus side the study shows that small changes can have dramatic impacts. A one per cent reduction in the number of overweight or obese people every year could prevent more than 64,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years and save the NHS £300 million in 2035 alone. 
The report calls on the Government to act now and introduce a 20p per litre tax on sugary drinks as well as a 9pm watershed ban on TV advertising of junk food as part of a comprehensive children’s obesity strategy. 


Study: Contribution Of Teachers As Part Of Early Learning & Childcare

This report is about young children and the hopes and ambitions Scotland has for them. Scottish Government policy aspires to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.

Part of this ambition is to tackle child poverty in Scotland and narrow the gap that disadvantage brings to educational outcomes.

At the same time as increasing the free entitlement to early learning and childcare (ELC) with the aim of this rising to 1,140 hours per year by 2020, there has been, over the last 10 years in Scotland, a 29% reduction in the numbers of GTCS-registered teachers employed in such services, but only a four per cent drop in child numbers, which gives a ratio of one teacher to 84 children at this important stage.

The numbers of GTCS-registered teachers in pre-school services face further reductions: if Scotland is to achieve its aspiration of changing child outcomes, no further attrition in teacher employment can be tolerated and serious consideration needs to be given to the future composition of the ELC workforce: a task that is underway following the Scottish Government's Response to the Independent Review of the Workforce (Siraj & Kingston, 2015).

The study and this report seek to provide an evidence base on the role of GTCS-registered teachers as part of the Early Learning and Childcare Workforce in Scotland.


Integrated review at age two and a half: experiences of practice

National Children’s Bureau for the Children’s Partnership | Published 15 February 2015

The Experiences of Practice series is designed to help both staff working directly with young children and those managing and designing services, to learn from work being done in Islington and Warwickshire, which were among the first to trial the Integrated Review developmental check introduced in September 2015.
Based on the experiences of service leads, practitioners and parents, each document in the Experiences of Practice series can be used as a standalone guide to one aspect of the Independent Review, or can be read alongside other published material.



The Introduction of Baseline Assessment

This research was commissioned by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from UCL Institute of Education | 12 February 2016 

Baseline Assessment was introduced in primary schools in England in September 2015. The assessment is conducted during the first few weeks of the autumn term with children entering the Reception year, aged 4-5, and is designed to produce a ‘baseline’ figure on the basis of which their progress during the primary years can be measured. The introduction of this assessment followed a consultation on how accountability measures for primary schools could be reformed. According to a DfE report, from 2016 the Baseline Assessment will be ‘the only measure used to assess the progress of children from entry (at age 4-5) to the end of key stage 2 (age 10-11), alongside an attainment floor standard of 85 per cent’ (DfE 2015c). 


Ending Childhood Obesity Report

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) has released its final report for the World Health Organization containing a range of recommendations for all governments to reverse the rising trend of childhood obesity.

ECHO has developed six key recommendations to successfully tackle childhood and adolescent obesity in different contexts across the world.

Promoting physical activity features prominently among the six recommendations. General recommendations include providing guidance to children and adolescents as well as parents, carers, teachers and health professionals on physical activity and appropriate screen-based entertainment. In addition, adequate physical activity facilities should be made available in schools and public spaces.


Creating an anti-poverty childcare system

JRF Programme Paper | January 2016 | Adam Butler and Jill Rutter    

This paper focuses on the impact of high-quality early education and effective early intervention, which can act as protective factors for children against the negative effects of poverty. It also highlights how access to flexible, affordable childcare can reduce pressures on family income and help parents work, train or study. 

The report finds that the current UK childcare system falls short of fulfilling its potential to help reduce the effects of poverty on children:

  • It does not allow children access to childcare of the standard required to improve developmental outcomes;
  • Families in areas of low parental employment are less likely to have access to flexible childcare; and
  • Support with childcare costs does not work well for parents with low incomes.

The report calls for an anti-poverty childcare system which maximises on quality and removes the barriers of affordability and access to parents on low incomes.


ls the lack of physical activity strategy for children complicit mass child neglect?

BJSM Online First, published on December 11 2013    

A rapidly burgeoning evidence base demonstrates a link between academic performance and physical fitness (ciosely linked to physical activity) for children of all ages and socioeconomic groups. There is also an inverse association between physical fitness and reported violent and antisocial incidents in schools.  

Physical education, games and sport for children have a demonstrable positive impact on physical health, and affective, social and cogninve funcrion. Furthermore, physical activity habits in childhood seem to determine, in part, adult physical activity behaviour,  which is a key determinant of adult health.


State of the Nation 2015: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission | State of the Nation Report 2015 | Published December 2015

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is an independent statutory body which examines what is happening to child poverty and social mobility in the United Kingdom. This is the third State of the Nation report that the Commission presents to Parliament. In this report we assess: what the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments are doing (our remit does not cover Northern Ireland); what progress is being made; and what we think will happen in the future. We also examine the contribution many others could make including employers and professions, schools and universities, parents and charities. We make a number of recommendations for action. 


DoE | The impact of children’s centres

Research Report | Studying the effects of children's centres in promoting better outcomes for young children and their families.

Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE, Strand 4) | December 2015

The six year Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE) study was conducted between 2009 and 2015. It is based around a number of linked Strands and has produced a series of reports. This penultimate report describes and summarises the main results from the Impact study (Strand 4). It will feed into further analyses that investigate cost effectiveness (Strand 5). The impact results are based on analyses involving over 2,600 families registered at 117 Phase 1 and 2 children’s centres serving disadvantaged communities in England. These analyses draw together data collected by earlier Strands of the evaluation, linking surveys of user families and information about children’s centres. 



HM Government | Sporting Future

Report | A New Strategy for an Active Nation | December 2015

This new strategy for sport and physical activity moves beyond merely looking
at how many people take part. It will consider what people get out of participating and what more can be done to make a physically active life truly transformative. In
the future, funding decisions will be made on the basis of the social good that sport and physical activity can deliver, not simply on the number of participants. We are redefining what success looks like in sport by concentrating on five key outcomes: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development. 


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

Department for Education | Effective Pre-School, Primary & Secondary Education Project (EPPSE) | October 2015

Executive Summary | This report studies the AS and A-level examination outcomes of a large sample of young people in England. It investigates the impact of pre-school and early home learning on entry patterns and overall attainment at ages 17 and 18 plus.

Background | The research is based on a follow-up of the longitudinal Effective Provision of Pre-school Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) study. This tracked a large sample of children through different phases of education and identified the effects of background characteristics on children's cognitive and social behavioural development.

When students were 16 years old, the EPPSE study found that pre-school and the early years home learning environment (HLE) shaped students' GCSE attainment (see Sammons et al., 2014; Sylva et al., 2014).

It showed that attending any pre-school, compared to none, predicted higher total GCSE scores, higher grades in GCSE English and maths, and the likelihood of achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grade A*-C. The more months students had spent in pre-school, the greater the impact on total GCSE scores and grades in English and maths. 


Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2014

CMO | The Health of the 51%: Women | First published (online only) December 2015

  • Chief Medical Officer’s introduction

Report Outline:

  • Gender-based violence against women
  • health in the reproductive years
  • health in later life
  • Women and cancer
  • A human rights perspective 


BHFNC | Sitting out physical activity

A new research brief has been published exploring children’s sedentary behaviour, health and the family environment. The Centre for Diet and Activity Research has explored what we know about the impact of too much sitting and the role that families have in tackling it. 


  • Sedentary behaviour research has focused largely on screen time, but in fact it encompasses a wide range of behaviours and settings. 
  • The impact of sedentary behaviour on health in young people, independent of physical activity is unclear and requires more research looking at individuals over time. 
  • Changes in the family and home environment, including parental behaviours, may be a route to reducing sedentary behaviours in children. 


Locked out: children’s experiences of visiting a parent in prison

Barnardo's | 4 December 2015

Thousands of children are being denied visiting rights to see their fathers in jail because of changes to the prison discipline system, according to this report. It says 17,000 children a month visit a parent in prison but changes to the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme in 2013 mean that prison visits are being used as a way to enforce discipline. Prisoners are being denied visits from their children, either as a punishment or because they have not “earned” the right. The report advises that not maintaining a good relationship with their parents can have a negative effect on a child's mental health, and studies show prisoners who see their children are less likely to reoffend.