Parents of children aged six and under place greatest importance on Early Years education nurturing kind, creative & sociable children.

New research commissioned by Montessori St Nicholas has found a high majority (89%) of parents to children aged six and under agree that Early Years educators have an essential role to play in their child’s development. Today’s parents expect Early Years educators to support a holistic approach, and this research suggests they place importance on children learning life skills such as being kind, creative and collaborative over the traditional 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) approach.

In a YouGov survey of 1,085 British parents of children aged six and under found that younger children prioritised free play and soft skills;

  • One in two (50%) said learning through free play in Early Years education was the most beneficial way of helping their children learn. This suggests a parental appetite for diverse educational practices; a hundred years ago the founder of Montessori education, Maria Montessori, said ‘growth comes from activity’
  • Parents placed importance on skills for life, such as social skills (81%), self-confidence (80%), kindness (75%)creativity (71%) and concentration (63%), putting less importance on the traditional 3Rs of reading (69%), writing (66%) and numeracy (61%)
  • Least important at this age was digital literacy (25%) and foreign languages (20%)
  • Technology was considered to have an important place in early years settings; 62% said teachers should use technology as an educational tool to guide learning, however only 40% wanted their children to personally interact with devices, for example using education apps, whilst at nursery or pre-school
YouGov rates free play in early years

YouGov rates free play in early years.

Another survey conducted by YouGov of 3,337 British adults found the perceived societal value of early years education at a high point; 88% said Early Years educators had an essential role to play in child development and 77% said quality Early Years education impacted a child’s development and life outcomes.

Respondents to both surveys were asked to estimate how much an Early Years teacher should be paid. The highest proportion of answers estimated between £17.61 and £11.58 an hour. The Office of National Statistics expects most Early Years educators to be paid £9.41 an hour, and the 2018 Ceeda Annual Report found most UK Early Years educators without Qualified Teacher Status received slightly less at £8.49. This survey found there is a clear gap between what Early Years educators receive and what parents and the public believe this valuable job is worth.

Commenting on the survey findings, Leonor Stjepic, Montessori St Nicholas’ Chief Executive said:

“It is encouraging to see the high level of importance parents and the public place on early years education, particularly with social mobility in mind – as well as seeing how important the British public and parents consider Early Years educators to be. However, this is currently not matched in funding priority from Government* and we see nurseries and pre-schools under pressure.

As we mark a hundred years since Maria Montessori first tested her ground-breaking methods in the UK, it is heartening to see there remains a real appetite for her conviction that young children learn best through purposeful activity.”

2019 marks 100 years since Maria Montessori made her first official visit to the UK. The training she gave to Montessori student teachers in 1919 became the standard training for Montessori teachers. To celebrate this landmark year the charity will be creating a new children’s garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Stjepic added: “In my view, the results of this survey send a clear message that quality Early Years education for all children is an essential part of life in Britain today and the education system should reflect that priority.”             




*Funding priority from Government: OECD figures (Sept 2018) show the UK falls behind in terms of the proportion of early childhood education spending from the government. For spending on children aged over three in the UK average – 58%. OECD average – 83%. EU average – 86%.

About the Montessori YouGov survey: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1085 British parents and carers of children aged 0-6 years old and 3337 British adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 14th November 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). A full copy of the survey results is available from YouGov on request.