A leading charity head today endorsed last week's report findings by the Sutton Trust, which advocated a better trained early years' workforce as being "vital" to give children from poorer backgrounds a fair chance of succeeding at school.

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children, said: "The quality of early years provision is crucial in making the difference for children - especially for disadvantaged children who need help the most. Excellent early years support can have a real impact on a child's life chances - with long term benefits through school and beyond.

"Having well trained, highly qualified and motivated staff is crucial to ensuring good quality early years education. The Sutton Trust's recent report and the Nutbrown review earlier this year are very welcome in making this case in the strongest terms."

The Sutton Trust was founded in 1997 by Sir Peter Lampl with the aim of promoting social mobility through education. Its researchers agreed that well-targeted investment in training those who work with young children was crucial, particularly in the UK which spends more than other countries on early childhood education, yet has bigger gaps between the richest and poorest four and five year-olds in school readiness (based on the top and bottom 10%). The US gap is 22 months, while that in the UK is 19 months, compared with 10.6 months in Canada and 14.5 months in Australia. Parenting and the level of parental education were agreed to be the biggest factors lying behind these gaps.

However, the education of early years and childcare workers matters as they can do a lot to improve the vocabulary, cognitive and social skills of young children, not least where they are not gaining those skills in the home.

Longfield added: "Excellent early years workers can have a real impact on a child's life chances and for too long, the early years has been seen as a lower status career option. There should be a clear plan to raise the status of the sector and improve the quality of early years provision and in doing so we will see ever better outcomes for young children. If the Government wants to give children the best start in life it must accept the challenge of raising the bar in nursery education and make the investment needed."

Posted by Penny Hosie