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The OECD International Early Learning and Child-Well-being Study in England


Help us to us to understand more about how a good early education and a strong home learning environment can boost a child’s development and well-being.

If your school has received a letter from NFER, you have been selected to be one of the 202 schools in England to take part in the study. 

What is IELS?

The International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS) is a new international study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) aiming to understand children’s early learning by age five and the influence of early education experiences, home environment and individual characteristics on their development. The ultimate goal of the study is to provide evidence that can improve children’s early learning outcomes and overall well-being.

The study focuses on five-year-olds in England and other countries. It will include activities for children together with questions for parents/carers and teachers.

We will invite up to 15 five-year-old children from each school to take part in games and story-based activities using a tablet. The children will complete the activities in one-to-one sessions with our experienced study administrators who are trained in working sensitively with children of this age. Each child will complete four sessions lasting 15-20 minutes each over two days.

For more information about IELS, please visit the About IELS page.

Why has your school been selected?

Your school is one of a nationally representative sample of schools selected by the international researchers to take part. This means that your school represents other schools that have similar characteristics, for instance other schools in England with a similar proportion of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. It is very important that all 202 schools participate so that we can be confident that the findings are representative of children in England.

What do I need to do next?

We will support schools and teachers to take part and will always be on hand to answer any questions you have.

Before we start the study in your school we will ask you to:

  • identify suitable dates between October and November 2018 for the study to take place in your school.
  • provide us with information about the number of five-year-olds in your school. This is so that we can let you know how many children will take part in the study
  • transfer information to us using our secure data transfer portal so that we can make a random selection of 15 five-year-olds to take part
  • advise us on the best way of sharing information with parents/carers and encourage them to complete the questionnaires (we will provide some suggestions to help you).

What happens during the study administration period?

One of our study administrators will call you before their visit to check arrangements, for instance whether the start date is still convenient and whether there is a suitable space available to carry out the one-to-one activities with the children. We will send you the parent/carer and staff questionnaires for completion.

During their time in your school, the study administrator(s) will:

  • be available to talk to teachers and parents/carers about the study.
  • complete the one-to-one activities with up to 15 five-year-olds in your school. Children will be taken through four short activities with the help of two interactive characters, Tom and Mia. These tablet-based activities will explore children’s social and emotional skills, self-regulation, and emerging literacy and numeracy.
  • ask the class teacher(s) of the children taking part in the study to complete a short questionnaire about themselves and the children, including their observations about children’s social and emotional well-being.
  • be available to talk to teachers and parents/carers about the study, and to collect questionnaires completed by parents/carers.

Who is carrying out the study?

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to carry out the study in England.

How will we look after your data?

We take privacy and confidentiality very seriously. The data will be processed in line with the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation. All information will be held securely and no individual child, parent, carer or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting.

For further information about confidentiality please view the privacy notice at this link:

FAQs for schools

Q: Are direct assessments suitable for young children?

A: We are confident that these assessments are suitable. They have been developed by an expert team and have been trialled with five-year-olds in England and other participating countries. The trials showed that the children enjoyed the experience of taking part. This research follows on from other high-quality studies in England that have added to our understanding of the importance of early learning, including Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE), the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) and the Millennium Cohort Study.

Q: Why is this research important, and what will it tell us?

A: This new and innovative study will help us to understand more about how a good early education and a strong home learning environment can boost a child’s development. The ultimate goal of the study is to provide evidence that can improve children’s early learning outcomes and overall well-being.

It will tell us more about what helps children learn, the range of things children can do at age five and how their cognitive development, language and numeracy relate to social skills and other aspects of well-being. It will tell us more about how the home learning environment and early childhood education and care relate to children’s development at age five. It will also collect information from teachers and parents/carers.

Q: What are the benefits for schools?

A: Schools will be contributing to the national and international evidence on the importance of early learning. We will invite you to a conference to hear the findings and discuss the implications for practice. By contributing to this study you will help us understand more about children’s development and how best to support it. This will inform and improve national policies in the early years.

If you have any questions about the study, please get in touch with us on 01753 637205.

The contributions of children, parents/carers and teachers are highly valued in making IELS a success, and we are very grateful to everyone who takes part. On behalf of NFER, the Department for Education and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – thank you!