Case Studies International Early Learning Child Well-being Study (IELS) for the Department for Education (DfE)

Schools UK Evaluation and Research

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AlphaPlus is delighted to announce that we are working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to deliver the International Early Learning Child Well-being Study in England on behalf of the Department for Education.

What is IELS?

The International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study is an international study that collects detailed information on key competencies of children across eight countries. It aims to help countries to improve children’s early learning experiences in order to better support their development and overall well-being.

Research into how children develop at this early stage has been limited and before the study’s introduction, it was difficult for nations to easily compare evidence and share best practice. Data from this study will be used to help countries to better support children’s early development and improve their long-term well-being by identifying key factors that drive or hinder the development of early learning. As this is the second cycle of this study in England, it provides a unique opportunity to compare early childhood development before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gives the DfE the opportunity to understand the development of empathy and self-regulation in children aged five- something we have very little data on at present.

We have scheduled virtual school briefing sessions (up to 30 minutes), to take place every Thursday at 4pm. These are intended to give you an opportunity to engage with us directly to find out more about the study and address any concerns you may have. To sign up for one of our sessions, please complete this form and we will send you a relevant link to the briefing session.

Click here to find out more about IELS.


We undertook a field study in preparation for the main study and received incredibly positive feedback. We’ve included some testimonials below.

IELS feedback, comments are: The administrators were polite, friendly and really accommodating when fitting in with the school day. The overall experience was extremely positive and it was great to know that we were helping with research into how young children develop. - Very positive. The children enjoyed spending time with the administrators and said that it was fun! - The online introduction/training session was extremely informative and the support throughout was efficient. I really enjoyed working with the IELS team. - The children enjoyed the activities- a sign of the times- anything on a tablet!!! - We found the whole experience really positive and we hardly knew that the assessors were there. They were friendly and approachable with staff and children. We were very confident that the children were fine and enjoyed answering the questions. - The trainers are lovely, the communication with the IELS team is great. A very handy online meeting was set up before we started. Things were resolved quickly and easily. Please take part!

Our role

AlphaPlus will be working with OECD to deliver the study in England. Our role involves:

  • Contributing to the design and development of the study
  • Selecting the random sample of pupils to take part in the trial and the main study
  • Recruiting and training test administrators to deliver the assessment to pupils
  • Managing the administration of questionnaires to parents/caregivers and to teachers
  • Analysing the data from the assessments and questionnaires
  • Reporting on the findings to DfE and disseminating these to policy officials and external stakeholders


November 2022 The project was awarded to AlphaPlus
September to November 2023 Teachers and parents to be contacted about children’s participation in the trial
January to March 2024 Field study
January to August 2024 Analysis of field study data
September to November 2024 Teachers and parents to be contacted about children’s participation in the main study
January to April 2025 Main study
June to November 2025 Analysis of main study data and reporting
March 2026 Final report published


How will data be collected?

Data will be collected in two key ways:

  • Study administrators will work with sampled children to complete play-based activities in two 60-minute sessions over the course of two days. These activities cover the following domains: emergent literacy, emergent numeracy, self-regulation, and empathy.
  • Parents/caregivers and teaching staff who know the sampled children best will be asked to complete a short online questionnaire.

What if I don’t have enough time?

We understand that teachers have a lot to do and so we’ve ensured that we provide the resources necessary so that participation in the study has minimal impact. Staff will mostly be asked to complete questionnaires and share pre-prepared documents with parents.

How many schools and countries will take part in the study?

Eight countries are taking part in the current cycle- Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, England, Netherlands, Malta, Switzerland and the UAE. For England, we expect 200 schools to take part.

Are schools compensated for participation?

Schools that are visited for the purpose of the study are invited to select one of the following options to thank them for their support and cooperation:

  • £150 plus a book bag
  • £180 book credit
  • £180 school supplies credit

When will the study take place?

The study will take place between January and March 2025. School visits and participation will be scheduled on the basis of a final sampling process.

How long will the study take?

Each selected child will complete two 60-minute sessions of play-based activities on a tablet (over two days).

How do I know which children have been selected to participate in the study?

This list will be uploaded to your secure school folder. You will be given access to this once you have confirmed participation. 

What if the parents don’t want their child to engage in the study?

Parents can withdraw their children from the study via an opt-out form we will provide.

If a parent decides to opt-out would you replace the child with someone else instead?

No, if a parent has opted their child out, or if the child for some reason cannot participate, we won’t replace them. 

What if we don’t get the forms back from parents?

Don’t worry, the forms to parents are op-out forms only, so parents should only return them if they want to withdraw their child from the study. We’ll share forms with you as soon as possible to give parents enough time to consider. 

What if we don’t have enough space for the study?

The requirements set out by the Department for Education are quite minimal and only require an area (preferably a room) that is quiet, well-lit, comfortable and with minimal distractions. We’re aiming to provide split headphones to minimise distractions so that we can make use of more spaces to carry out the study.

If the child has an important lesson at the same time as the study activities, will they have to miss it?

No, we understand you may not want children to miss specific activities and sessions and will work to accommodate his.

Will we get to see the results and outcomes of the study?

Yes you will, here’s a report from the previous cycle to give you an idea of what types of outcomes we get: Early Learning and Child Well-being: A Study of Five-year-Olds in England, Estonia and the United States. All schools invited to participate will have access to the final report for the 2025 study and be invited to participate in any briefings in respect of this.

How will you ensure pupil wellbeing is prioritised?

Child well-being is of the utmost importance in this study and has been considered at every stage:

  • The assessment material will be delivered by trained administrators, in one-to-one situations, in a familiar and controlled environment of the child’s centre or school
  • All assessment materials have been extensively trialled to be appropriate for children of this age. Pupils do not feel like they are taking a test but instead engaging with fun and age-appropriate stories and games.
  • Children are asked at every stage whether they have enjoyed the activities. Feedback from children in the Study has been overwhelmingly positive, on both the stories and games and on the touch screen functionality of the tablets.
  • Children are able to stop the assessment or withdraw entirely from the study at any time.

How secure will participants’ data be?

We take the privacy of all participants in this study very seriously, and we have robust data protection and security processes in place. All data will be processed in line with the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation and no individual child, parent, carer or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting.

Further information

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact: or, or call us on 0161 249 9249.


England is taking part in The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS).
The purpose of the study is to produce statistics on children’s learning and development, in order to learn more about how best to support children in their early years. The Department for Education (DfE) has commissioned AlphaPlus to carry out the study in England in 2024 and 2025.

We take privacy and confidentiality very seriously and adhere strictly to the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To ensure confidentiality, no information concerning individual pupils, parents/carers, teachers or schools will be identified or identifiable in any reporting. This privacy notice tells you what DfE, and its approved contractors, will do with the information we collect from parents, children and teachers as part of the IELS study and how we will ensure privacy of personal information. It explains:

  • information to be collected for the study
  • organisations that information will be shared with
  • how we will use the personal data
  • what makes it lawful to collect and share the information
  • how participation affects you
  • security and confidentiality
  • contact details and further information

Participation in the study is voluntary. If there are any questions you do not wish to answer you may leave them blank. By providing information as part of this study, you are agreeing to the use of the information you provide as set out in this privacy notice.

Information to be collected for the study

The study will collect information about children’s development and their characteristics from their parent(s) or carer(s), their teachers and by studying the children themselves. No individual child, parent or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting.

The DfE’s approved contractors for this study (AlphaPlus) will collect the following personal information about participating children from participating schools in order to administer the study:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender

Special category data such as:

  • Information on special educational needs.

We also ask teachers for their assessments of each participating child’s cognitive and social/ emotional development.

their own characteristics:

  • age
  • level of education
  • relationship to child
  • family composition
  • English as an additional language
  • whether born in England
  • current employment
  • their child’s characteristics:
  • skills and abilities
  • physical health
  • special educational needs or disabilities
  • cognitive and social/emotional development
  • ethnicity
  • English as an additional language
  • whether born in England.

 Information that we collect from teachers will be their:

  • age
  • gender
  • qualifications
  • employment status
  • how long they have been in post

Organisations that information will be shared with
AlphaPlus will collect this personal and special category data on behalf of DfE but will remove all information that could identify individual children, teachers or parents before this information is shared with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This means that OECD will receive an anonymised set of data for its production of aggregated statistics.

How we will use the personal data
For the purposes of this research, the DfE and its approved contractors will link the information to other information DfE already holds (such as on the National Pupil Database) or that it is lawfully permitted to access from other sources. This is to avoid repeatedly asking participants to give us information that we already hold and to enable analysis of the longer-term benefits of early learning.

DfE (or its appointed contractors) will keep the personal information indefinitely with appropriate safeguards in place to protect the information for the purposes of research and statistics (as permitted under Article 19 (1)(b) of the Data Protection Act 2018 and Article 9 (1)(j) GDPR), as the benefits of early learning are known to be related to life outcomes in adulthood and analysing the information from this study would enable greater understanding of this effect. Neither DfE (or its appointed contractors) will share any information that would identify individual participants in the study or other individuals to whom they refer, with any third parties unless required to do so by law.

What makes it lawful to collect and share the information?
Personal data will be collected by DfE’s appointed contractor on DfE’s behalf for the purposes of research and statistical analysis that is in the public interest pursuant to Regulation 3(6) of the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons)(England) Regulations 2009. The legal basis for processing this data is Article 6(1)(e) of the General Data Protection Regulation where “processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the [data] controller”.

The processing of sensitive personal data, consisting of information as to racial or ethnic origin is necessary for the purpose of identifying or keeping under review the existence or absence of equality of opportunity or treatment between persons of different racial or ethnic origins as permitted under Article 9 (1)(j) of the GDPR. This is with a view to enabling such equality to be promoted or maintained and is carried out with appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of data subjects.

How participation affects you
No individual child, parent, or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting. Participation (or non-participation) in this study will have no influence on parents, teachers or children. Parents/carers are free to change their mind at any time and withdraw, or withdraw their child/children, from the study.

Further contact
Parents: if you agree to provide your contact details, DfE’s contracted partner will gather this information and pass it to the DfE. The DfE then might pass this information to another contractor to ask you to take part in further research. Please note that, if contacted, you will be under no obligation to take part and you can change your mind at any time. If you agree to participate, you will not be identified or identifiable in any results.

Security and confidentiality
Any personal data collected by DfE (and organisations acting on its behalf) will be handled securely and confidentially. It will only be used for the purposes of research and statistical analysis relating to children’s early learning and development and related topics.

Contact details for further information
For further information on how AlphaPlus will process your personal data for the purposes of IELS, please contact AlphaPlus’ enquiry line on 0161 249 9249 and ask for the IELS coordinator or email

How to raise a concern
If you have any questions about how DfE will use your information, please contact:

Under data protection legislation, you have the right to:

  • object to processing of personal data that is likely to cause, or is causing, damage or distress
  • prevent processing for the purpose of direct marketing
  • object to decisions being taken by automated means
  • in certain circumstances, have inaccurate personal data rectified, blocked, erased or destroyed; and
  • claim compensation for damages caused by a breach of the Data Protection regulations.

If you have a concern about the way we are collecting or using your personal data, you should raise your concern with us in the first instance at or directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office at

Webinar event for participating schools
As part of the study, we will contact participating schools to attend a brief online briefing.

Last updated
We keep this privacy notice under review to make sure it is up to date and accurate.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about IELS research at AlphaPlus, please email

If you want to get in touch with the DfE about this study please email:

For any media enquiries,

If you are a school that participated in the study and have any questions, please contact us by calling 0161 249 9249 or emailing or