Early Years Community Research Centre

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We are working with our communities to improve lives across South Yorkshire.

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Early Years Community Research Centre

Developing our newly opened Early Years Community Research Centre, in Shirecliffe, Sheffield, sharing best practice and providing a vital community resource.

Nursery worker playing outside with four young children

Early years is the most critical stage of learning and development in a young person’s life. The gap in attainment and educational outcomes between the most affluent and most deprived areas becomes apparent before a child starts school. 

In April 2021, alongside Watercliffe Meadow Primary School, Save the Children UK and Sheffield City Council, we established the Early Years Community Research Centre (EYCRC). Based in Shirecliffe, Sheffield, the Centre is a community nursery and research hub, with the vision to transform early years education and care.


The Centre is home to Meadows Nursery, offering up to 40 full-time nursery places for children aged between 2 - 5 and is a hub for innovative early years learning.

Children who are entitled to Free Early Learning from two-years-old ordinarily must wait until the term after their birthday before they are able to take up a place – meaning families who need it most could miss out on weeks or months of subsidised nursery care. 

With funding secured through our collaboration with Save the Children UK, we can offer a child a place at the nursery as soon as they reach their second birthday.

Syrenna’s daughter, Willow, was able to join the nursery early.

“She wants to be more independent and do things for herself. I am really pleased the nursery has been able to help her become confident and her own little person.”

The funding allows us to work closely with health and home visiting partners to identify families needing extra support.

Working in partnership

The Centre is the result of a unique partnership between the Watercliffe Meadow Primary School, Save the Children UK, Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Hallam.

Initial funds to establish the Centre were secured through a £345,000 grant from the Department for Education’s School Nurseries Capital Fund.

The Centre is managed alongside our existing nursery in Broomhall, Sheffield, to provide much-needed nursery places.

Support for local families

Our partnership with parents has led to the establishment of a parent run breakfast club that provides hot meals, support and training opportunities for parents. The social networks established through the club has led to parents accessing health and craft courses as well as support for learning at home. Some of parents are now trained as community researchers to identify the areas for future research that will have the most impact in Shirecliffe.

In August 2023 our nursery team and Save the Children colleagues organised a community camping trip and a day trip to Cleethorpes with over 50 children and their families to enrich the children’s experience.

Opportunities for our students

Students across the University are involved in the development of the Centre. Early Childhood Studies and Architecture students came together to design an innovative outdoor space for the nursery. 

Second year Architecture student, Jade Tickle, worked alongside Early Childhood Studies students to create designs for a natural playground at the Nursery.

This has been a great opportunity for me, it will set me apart from others when applying for placement next year, as well as being able to give back to the community.”

The Centre also provides further opportunities for students through placements, learning about real-life challenges and research. Up to July 2023 the centre had offered over 150 learning or placement opportunities for Hallam Sstudents from Sheffield Hallam.


The Nursery is a hub for innovative early years learning and care, alongside multi-disciplinary on-site research, bringing together academic research capacity, community-focused education and care, and expert knowledge from the children’s charity sector.

The Sheffield Institute of Education is developing a range of initiatives to explore and support early years practice, including a CPD network for practitioners and creation of an active group of early childhood researchers to implement innovative practice within the Nursery and beyond.

One of the Nursery’s key developments is the Education Endowment Foundation funded Talk with Tales for Children (TWiTCH ) programme to support young children’s language. Research with parents using the centre in 2022 highlighted the huge impact the centre has had on children and their families: 

“My daughter talks all the time, and her vocabulary is just amazing.  The words that she says and the sentences that she says.  She will tell you when she wants something, she will tell you if she needs something, and she has just become an absolute delight. “ 

“I don’t usually like making friends.  I've got social anxiety but quite a few of the mums here that I talk to, they go to breakfast club now so I sit with them. They love it, which means I'm settled, and the staff are great, they are always willing to help out in any which way they can.” Nursery Parent

Through our partnership with Save the Children UK, this research will benefit children across the country through the dissemination of research findings and best practice in the early years sector.

Our Civic University Agreement

We are working with our communities to improve lives across South Yorkshire.

Read our Agreement (PDF, 5.2MB)