IELS thematic report: Young children’s development and deprivation in England

Rachel Classick, Chris Hope, and Caroline Sharp

08 July 2021

Research report is available on gov.uk

This study investigated how deprivation relates to the learning outcomes of five-year-old children in England, using data from the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS).

Key Findings

  • Parental socio-economic status and school-level measures of deprivation are more strongly related to children’s development than child-level measures of deprivation (such as Free School Meals).
  • Being able to remain on task during the IELS assessments, being older and more persistent were all associated with greater development in emergent numeracy (e.g. numbers, shape and measurement); emergent literacy (oral language and vocabulary); emotion identification (the ability to recognise others’ emotions); and metal flexibility (the ability to adapt your thinking to changing circumstances).
  • On-task behaviour and persistence had a stronger relationship with children’s development than deprivation.
  • Having a special education need is a risk factor for development in all four areas.
  • Most risk and protective factors were the same for children living in the most deprived areas as for all children.
  • Having English as an additional language is a risk factor for children’s emergent literacy development, especially for children living in the most deprived areas.

This research helps to increase awareness and understanding of the risk and protective factors for all children. The multiple factors affecting the development of children from deprived backgrounds suggest the need for a wide-ranging response from teachers and ECEC staff, including encouraging persistence and on-task behaviour, as well as targeted interventions to support the language development of children with EAL living in deprived areas.