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Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund

Toddlers playing with sand
Researchers: Helen Ranns
Published: July 2011


This policy evaluation assessed the implementation of the Graduate Leader Fund and its impact on the quality of early years education provision in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector.

About the Graduate Leader Fund

The Graduate Leader Fund supports all full, day-care PVI sector providers in employing a graduate or Early Years Professional.


We found that the use of specialised early years graduate training can improve quality within the PVI sector. It also revealed that training is key to the positive impact of the EYP role.

  • EYPs were effective in leading change mainly for preschool children (30 months to 5 years) and older children.
  • The low number of EYPs deployed in the infant/toddler rooms (less than half, compared with 91% working in the pre-school rooms observed) make it difficult to draw firm conclusions for this age range.
  • Settings using an EYP made significant improvements in quality over those that did not.
  • EYPs were successful in leading implementation of the Early Years Foundation Stage, with positive benefits relating strongly to direct ‘hands-on’ work with children.
  • There were fewer measurable changes identified in the quality of the physical environment, personal care routines and provision for parents and staff.
  • Both EYP training and EYP roles are key factors for facilitating future positive impact.

The EYP leader’s qualification is only one of many variables that impact on the quality of a learning setting. The research also identified a number of other factors, including:

  • the qualifications and experience of the wider team
  • positive relationships with parents and other professionals
  • careful planning of changes
  • and high-quality physical environments.


The research included a literature review; an impact study; and qualitative research case studies.

Data was gathered from a sample of 238 settings visited twice, with two years between visits. Case studies in 12 settings complemented the impact assessment by describing the improvements made, with managers, EYPs and setting staff taking part. An opinion survey was also conducted with parents in these 12 settings to gain views on the quality of provision and changes over time. 

Read the report