Background and study design

What is SEED?

The Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) is a major longitudinal study following nearly 6,000 children from across England from age two through to the end of key stage one (age seven).

The study is being carried out by NatCen Social Research, Frontier Economics, the University of Oxford and Action for Children, on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE).

Who are the families in SEED?


Just under 6,000 families took part in the baseline survey over the period from October 2013 to November 2014. Most children in the study were two years old at the time of the baseline interview. The sample of families in the SEED study is representative of the population of families with children aged two in England at the time.

Children in SEED were born over a two year period (September 2010 to August 2012), and are divided into six cohorts according to the term in which they were born.

The sample was designed to have three subgroups sampled in equal proportion, i.e. such that each group made up around a third of the sample in each cohort. The three subgroups were:

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SEED Website Cohort Timeline V4

What does the study involve?

The study involves a number of strands of work:

  • A longitudinal survey of almost 6,000 children aiming to find out how characteristics of the early environment, including early childhood education and care, relate to child development over time. This strand involves:
    • Interviews with families when children are age two, three, four and five
    • Surveys with childcare staff and school teachers
    • Linking to Early Years Foundation Stage Profile and Key Stage 1 scores


  • A study of quality in 1,000 group based early years settings and around 100 childminders being used by children in the study. This aims to understand what is important for high quality childcare provision and how the quality of provision relates to child outcomes.


  • A study of the value for money of early childhood education and care. Using cost data collected from 166 early years settings, this component of SEED will compare the costs of delivering early education with the estimated monetary value of the impacts on child development. Value for money based on the relative costs and benefits will be estimated for different types, attendance patterns and quality of provision.


  • Qualitative studies
    • Interviews to investigate the views of childminders
    • Case studies of good practice in group based providers
    • A study of providers’ experiences of the Early Years Pupil Premium
    • A study of early education provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities involving interviews with families and staff at early years settings.