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NFER appointed to carry out new OECD International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study

06 July 2017

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), one of the UK’s leading independent research organisations, has been appointed by the Department for Education to carry out a new OECD study to improve children’s early development in England.

NFER will carry out the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS) in England looking to gather evidence on how to enrich a child’s first experiences of learning. Iram Siraj OBE, Professor of Early Childhood Education at UCL Institute of Education and Kathy Sylva OBE, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Oxford will be working with NFER on this project.

The study will take a holistic approach to exploring how to support a child’s cognitive, social and emotional wellbeing through a combination of interactive stories and games with children aged 5.

It will use fun activities to look at the social behaviour, empathy, memory and self-regulation of 5-year-olds, as well as their early skills in language, literacy and numeracy. It will also take into account other contextual factors including family characteristics, home environment and individual circumstances, based on information from questionnaires that parents and staff will be asked to complete.

Carole Willis, Chief Executive of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), commented: “We welcome this ground-breaking international study that is being carried out in a child-friendly and age-appropriate way and which engages children in fun activities. It will offer valuable insights across countries to help us understand this important phase of education.”

The study is aimed at adding to what is already known about the profound impact early learning has on outcomes, not only for individual children but also for society more widely.

Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher, said: “The OECD welcomes England’s participation in this study on Early Learning and Child Well-being. England is clearly prioritising the importance of children’s early development and this study will provide reliable information that will help England to improve the early learning experiences for this and subsequent cohorts of children.”

You can find out more about the IELS pilot study on the OECD website.


For further information contact: Jane Parrack 01753 637245 or Sundip Gill 01753 637218

Notes to editors

  1. A field trial will take place in October-December 2017. Around 300 children in 20 schools or childcare settings will take part in each participating country.
  2. Following a review of the field trial’s outcomes, a decision will be made whether to proceed with the main study, due to take place in autumn 2018. This will include 3,000 children from 200 schools or settings in each participating country.
  3. Final reports will be published in 2020, including a national report on the study in England as well as the overall OECD findings.
  4. NFER is a leading independent provider of rigorous research and insights in education for all children and young people. We are a charity and our robust and innovative research, assessments and other services are widely known and used by key decision-makers. Any surplus generated is reinvested in projects to support our charitable purpose. @NFER