Life stages: Starting Well

Pregnancy and the first five years of life shape children’s life chances – the associations between cognitive development at age five and later educational outcomes are very strong.


During the earliest years, it is primarily parents who shape their children’s outcomes – a healthy pregnancy, good mental health, the way that they parent and whether the home environment is educational. Institutions such as health services, Children’s Centres and childcare in particular also have an impact as do family background factors, such as the parents’ level of education.


It is in the early years that the socio-economic gaps in outcomes appear. Already by age three there are large and systematic differences between children from lower and higher income families and these gaps persist throughout childhood, as later attainment tends to be heavily influenced by early development.

Source: Field, F. The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults. The Report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances. London: Cabinet Office; 2010.