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our origins

History of the Network
The Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network came into existence in 1993/4. It arose out of the Early Years Training Group which met at the Early Childhood Unit of the National Children’s Bureau. The training group itself had started in 1991 when University lecturer (Pamela Calder) and two Local authority advisers from Southwark (Linda Osborn) and Camden (Jenny Williams) approached Gillian Pugh who was head of the Early Childhood Unit, to suggest that we needed to find ways to develop higher education and degree level courses for early childhood workers, since they were often expected to undertake demanding jobs which required, high skills and a flexible and critical approach and for which their current training was inadequate. Gillian Pugh had at the same time been forming the Early Childhood Education Forum, and members of this group were also concerned about training issues.

These two groups came together to form the Early Years Training Group. The group comprised of leading early childhood researchers with university links and with perspectives that spanned both care and education, and also practitioners from local authorities and from the education and child care sector and included representatives from other early childhood training organisations such as CACHE, Montessori, High Scope and the Pre-School Learning Alliance. Together over the next few years they produced two papers on new training developments (NCB 1992, Pugh 1996) in which they argued for the setting up of Early Childhood Studies Degrees.

ECSDN Origin & Aims

By 1993/4 several degrees were in existence and more were planned but there was no organisation to represent them. Thus the network was born. It was initially set up only as an e-mail network, but soon also began to hold regular meetings at the National Children’s Bureau. The first conference in which the network was involved was the one to launch Abbott, L. and Pugh, G. (Eds.) (1998) Training to work in the Early years Developing the Climbing Frame Open University Press, a book to which several of the network members had contributed.

From the initial two degrees that by 1993 were set up at Bristol University and at Suffolk College there was soon an increase, so that by June 1996 there were five in existence with more planned. Since then the network and the number of degrees offered has expanded enormously. The election of the Labour government in 1997 and in particular the launch of the Childcare Strategy in 1998 provided the context in which new early childhood studies degrees became much easier to set up and in 1999 at least seven new degrees were started or planned. Early Education published an article (Calder 1999a) outlining the position at that time. The European Early childhood Education Research Journal also published an article outlining the arguments for Early Childhood Studies degrees (Calder 1999b)

On the 27th November 2002 we agreed a new structure to the network, set up an elected committee, with chair/coordinator, minutes secretary and treasurer and became a paying membership organisation, and agreed our network aims.


Terms of Reference

  • To develop Early Childhood Studies degrees and equivalent, and to establish the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network as a resource for dissemination, research and development of quality standards and as a point of reference for other relevant bodies.
  • To produce training and education for those working with children from birth-to eight.
  • To work towards one professional graduate qualification in group settings.
  • To have an academic/ practitioner research base.
  • To facilitate a variety of entry points and pathways to promote opportunities for continuing academic and professional development in ECS.
  • To promote pay, recognition and acceptance by employers of Early Childhood Studies degrees.
  • To promote recognition of Early Childhood Studies as a coherent subject area within higher educational institutions.

17th July 2002
The network continued to meet regularly. The members included the course directors of most of the new Early Childhood Studies degrees, as well as those researching in the area and advocating change. They included participants from Universities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales as well as in England. We have held two international conferences, in 2004 entitled ‘The Early Years Workforce: A Graduate Future’, and in 2006 entitled ‘Research to Reality: ECS Degree Quality and Professionalism’. We have recently held a symposium entitled ‘Reconciling Diverse Agendas in Early Childhood Policy, Systems and Practice in the UK’ at the EECERA 2009 Conference in Strasbourg.

The network has needed to deal with many issues concerning the recognition of an ECS degree as an important early years qualification. For example, initially early childhood was not considered as a subject area that would allow entry onto a PGCE course. We lobbied education representative from the DFES and from the TTA and invited representatives to our meetings. At a following meeting in 1998 we were very pleased to learn that the rules were to be changed and that a new circular, Circular 4/98, (DfEE1998) was to be issued which would allow our graduates to meet the new PGCE entry requirements.

We also held meetings with representatives of the DFES, the QCA, and the then Early Years NTO to discuss the other issue, that our graduates were not necessarily recognised as being eligible to work with children in childcare settings. After much discussion this was resolved with the recognition and introduction of practitioner options in 2004. In 2005 we began the process of developing Early Childhood Studies Benchmark statements as a subject area with QAA. The definitive benchmark statements for Early Childhood Studies degrees were published in 2007 (QAA, 2007).

We have worked closely with the CWDC since its inception contributing to many of the recent initiatives such as the development of the early years workforce and introduction of the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS); and as advisors for continuing early childhood professional development.

The aims were revised in 2008

  • To continue to campaign for a high status early childhood graduate profession
  • To provide a critical perspective on and a forum for the advancement of appropriate early years policies, initiatives and legislation
  • To develop graduate and postgraduate level education, training and research in the field of Early Childhood Studies.

In so doing the ECSDN will seek

  1. To promote academic and professional developments in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Provision
  2. To promote the continuing development of Early Childhood Studies as an academic and professional discipline in higher education
  3. To promote, encourage, support and disseminate undergraduate, postgraduate and professional research in the field of Early Childhood Studies.
  4. To work towards the integration of Early Childhood Studies within other early childhood academic and professional initiatives, both nationally and internationally.
  5. To promote pay recognition and acceptance by employers of early childhood academic and professional qualifications.

For this purpose it will work to:
facilitate communication and co-operation between member institutions provide a forum for sharing information across the UK and internationally enhance quality and impact through the application and championing of research influence the development and implementation of policy by working in partnership with other agencies and by undertaking communications and dissemination activities promote the value of an early childhood graduate profession throughout the UK articulate the role of Early Childhood Studies (ECS) as an interdisciplinary field of study that adds value to the creation and communication of knowledge within the higher education community

They were revised again in 2010 to become the current aims of the ECSDN


  • Abbott, L. and Pugh, G. (Eds.) (1998) Training to work in the Early years Developing the Climbing Frame. Buckingham:Open University Press.
  • Calder, P. A. (1999) More than degrees of change: early childhood education and training. Early Education. 29 Autumn 1999. 3-5. British Association for Early Childhood Education. ISSN 0960-281X
  • Calder, P.A. (1999) The Development of Early Childhood Studies Degrees in Britain: Future Prospects. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal Vol. 7 1, 45-68 ISSN1350-293X
  • DfEE (1998) Teaching: High Status, High Standards Requirements for Courses of Initial Teacher Training. Circular Number 4/98. London: DfEE
  • QAA (2007) Subject Benchmark Statement Early Childhood Studies 210 1207. London: QAA.