Teacher's hand extracting early years book from shelf

Early years education research

Explore our work in early years education, an area of expertise within our Education research

Our early years education research explores the experiences and opportunities that play a role in the development of young children (pre-birth to 8 years old) at all levels of life and society – from the accessibility and quality of early years education and care, to the parenting, family, and social issues that influence how a young child develops.

Our research is closely aligned with two of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – improving the quality of early years education, and tackling gender and other social inequalities. 

Our work is already making an impact. We're currently developing child-centred pedagogies and practices designed to meet children’s needs and encourage active learning and agency in children. Our findings are being put to practical use by local authorities, kindergartens and other early years providers in England and overseas.

We're challenging the perceptions and practices – around gender, culture, language, race, ethnicity, special educational needs, and family dynamics – that prevent children from achieving their potential.

Our research covers the following key topics

  • Pedagogy and practice
  • Sociology of (early) childhood
  • Comparative early childhood education
  • Special Education
  • Professionalism in the early years
  • Children’s rights
  • Child agency
  • Parenting


Through qualitative research methods – including interviews with children, practitioners, and other key stakeholders, classroom observations, narratives, and storylines – we're exploring children’s and adults’ perceptions and experiences of early years education.

And through creative and visual research methods such as pictorial conversations, photo diaries, mental maps and drawings, we're giving children a voice in our research.

Partnerships and publications

We collaborate with academic institutions around the world, such as Macquarie University and University of Queensland (Australia), Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (Norway), Early Childhood Ireland, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and The Education University of Hong Kong (China).

Our work is frequently published in leading academic journals such as the European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, and Early Education and Development.

Project highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Early years education is one of our 5 areas of expertise in Education research – explore the others below.

Research groups

We're researching education and childhood, with a focus on social justice and the right of the child.
We're promoting research and projects in the field of mental health in childhood, from wellbeing in early years to bullying in schools.

Interested in a PhD in Education?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Education postgraduate research degrees page.