January 2017

Good Practice in Early Education

Report summary

Aims and Methods

Sixteen case studies were carried out with early years settings across England assessed as having ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ quality provision by 4Children as part of the wider SEED quality strand. Case study settings included maintained nursery classes, private and voluntary settings including day nurseries and pre-schools from across England. 

Case studies involved forty-eight face-to-face interviews with setting managers and staff and telephone interviews with forty-nine parents and six Local Authority staff. Fieldwork was carried out between November 2015 and March 2016.

Key Findings

Three broad cross-cutting themes relating to good practice in early education were identified:

  • Tailoring practice to the needs of children: Systems and processes were developed with the wellbeing and development of children in mind, helping settings to maintain focus and have clear goals that informed all areas of their practice.


  • Skilled and experienced staff: Settings worked hard to recruit and retain high quality staff (i.e. those who were qualified, knowledgeable and experienced), and prioritised ongoing support for staff development. Strong leadership was also considered vital.


  • An open and reflective culture: Settings sought out and worked in partnership with other settings and professionals, recognised the knowledge and expertise of their own staff, valued open discussion and staff consultation, and embedded a culture of self-evaluation as a means of driving continuous improvement.