The Economist Intelligence Report – ‘Starting Well’   Leave a comment

NB My colleague Laura Henry has reminded me that this report was published last year – however the points in it are very relevant to current issues and worth re visiting.

It may also be worth mentioning that I was not blogging at the time – nor was I expressing my opinion so publicly.

Yesterday my attention was drawn to a report that has proved to be VERY interesting

The report in question is from the Economist Intelligence Unit Link to report

although it is in partnership with others mentioned in the report.

I shall be going through the report, commenting on the things that interest me – but need to stress that there are many other interesting and useful facts within the report, that others may pick up on – and indeed I may pick up on at a later point.

So to start;

The Starting Well Index assesses the extent to which governments provide a good, inclusive early childhood education (ECE) environment for children between the ages of 3 and 6. (pg 6)

Interestingly the report has the start of primary education as the ‘cut off point’ for this report – so my question is as children here go to school as rising 5’s does this mean that they are disadvantaged in comparison to children in other countries included in the study?

However I note that the report is not looking specifically at how well the children do in terms of curriculum provided – and says on page 8 ‘ This does not in any way relate to the specific, pedagogical approaches taken within preschools. or seek to prejudge which of these are best’

The report states on page 8  (when referring to the 3 – 6 age group) ‘This is not to detract from the importance of the vital years from birth to three, but it represents those critical years when children move from predominantly home based care and start to interact in a group environment with specific learning targets in preparation for the first grade of primary school’

Well a couple of interesting points there as of course all children in this country are subjected to a curriculum before the age of three, and home based care is not predominant, and as already mentioned our children enter primary school at a younger age to many other countries.

I wonder if the government will pick up on this aspect of practice from other countries – it seems that lessons could be learned.

Here are some facts taken from the report that confirmed my own opinion

‘Finland, Sweden and Norway top the index, thanks to sustained, long term investment and prioritisation of early childhood development, which is now deeply embedded in society’.

The bits made bold are added by me to emphasis the things I think are missing in this country.

Public sector spending cuts pose a major threat to preschools … ‘The threats come despite a growing body of research which suggests that increased government investment in early childhood development, if directed well, can result in annuals returns ranging from 8% to 17%, which largely accrue  to wider society. Such returns come from the reduced need for later remedial education and spending, as well as lower crime and less welfare reliance in later life, among other things’

So in a nutshell what many have been saying – invest in early years now and reap the benefits later. In terms of government spending surely it would make sense in the long term?

‘……. globalisation also poses a risk to countries that rush to adopt curriculum’s from other countries, without adapting them for their local cultures and traditions’

‘While many good practices can be indeed be shared, experts caution that countries need to ensure that they cherish and promote their unique individual cultures’

In this country part of our culture is that our youngest children (birth to three) stay at home with parents OR are cared for within home environments – and our children aged 3 -5 experience a play curriculum and  are not set targets or goals (recent curriculum’s with targets being a relatively new idea)

However the most interesting element of this report are the tables that show how well each country is doing – because despite our governments insistence that childcare in this country needs reform and is too expensive – this report says otherwise.

It may surprise you to know that overall

Finland 1st

UK ranks 4th,

France 7th

Netherlands 8th

On quality

Finland 1st

UK  3rd

Netherlands 7th

France 9th

On Availability

Belgium 1st

UK 3rd

France 6th

Netherlands 20th

On affordability 

Norway 1st

UK 6th

France 7th

Netherlands 10th

SO WHY is the government looking at the Netherlands and France as models for this country to adopt?

Why is Ms. Truss not praising Early Years provision in Finland, Norway or Belgium?

And one final point about this country that needs looking at

The report says on page 16 ‘ However (in the UK) three and four year olds are entitled to just 15 hours per week…… Fifthen hours per week is low in terms of what happens certainly in other parts of Europe and even in places like the developing world in Latin America’


‘ In other countries there is a recognition that to really effect change, especially for the most vulnerable children, you need a depth of coverage and a much longer day’

I shall end there – even though there is much more relevant information within the report.

My personal conclusion is although there is much more we could do in this country in terms of universal funding, in terms of age range of preschool education  (and from a personal perspective in terms of curriculum) – actually we are doing quite well in global terms.

So government


and if you must look to other countries for ideas and examples of good practice – for goodness sake look to those ABOVE us in the tables in this report.

Posted January 14, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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