Changing Lives through relationships

The Early Years and Community Research Centre (EYCRC) is a new and innovative partnership approach to nursery provision in Sheffield. Believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the Centre will combine excellent nursery provision for up to 40 children aged two to four in the North of Sheffield with research and innovation in early years education and care.

Children will be cared for in a newly refurbished indoor and outdoor space which will provide a safe and inspiring environment for them to learn and thrive.

The centre is the result of a unique partnership involving Sheffield Hallam University, Watercliffe Meadow School, where the new centre will be based, Sheffield City Council, and Save the Children UK.

The Early Years and Community Research Centre (EYCRC) opened on 26 April 2021 and is managed alongside Sheffield Hallam University’s nursery based at Collegiate Crescent. The centre will offer significant benefits to the children, the wider community, and early years practice and delivery. Benefits include:

  • Creating opportunities for practitioners to develop their skills and knowledge and share best practice which will enhance the support for children’s development and learning at both sites.
  • Improving outcomes for children in the area – helping them to achieve their potential.
  • Opportunities for research in early years care and education in the community will be shared across the sector.
  • Working collaboratively and in partnership with parents/carers and the community.
  • High-quality placement and real-life experiences for Sheffield Hallam students – supporting their development and providing additional capacity for the centre to deliver its ambitions.

Early years are the most vital stage of learning and development in a young person’s life. Providing a solid foundation of understanding, education, and support is key to ensuring the next generation has the best possible start in life.

The Royal Foundation, led by the Duchess of Cambridge, recently published the results of their #5BigQuestions survey.

The survey identified that:

  • 73% of parents of a 0-5-year-old report that being a parent Is stressful or very stressful. 45% of these parents reported balancing work demands to be a key challenge they face as a parent.
  • Parental loneliness increased dramatically during Covid-19. The report shows that 63%of parents experienced parental loneliness during the pandemic compared to 38%

Find out more about #5BigQuestions on Twitter or The Royal Foundation website.

The EYCRC is just one approach Sheffield Hallam University and our partners are taking to improve access to high-quality provision in Sheffield and the wider region. The research centre will be a focus for developing early years practice and training with our partners and the local community.


The research that will take place at the EYCRC will take lots of different forms. Some of the ideas that will be explored are:

Philosophy for Children (P4C)

P4C offers children the chance to discuss the things that are important to them with the practitioners that care for them. The discussions will encourage children to ask questions, have an opinion, think differently, and improve spoken language. P4C centres around concepts that are important to us all but can be tricky to identify such as fairness, truth, and freedom.

Trauma-Informed practice

This focuses on training for teachers and other professionals around creating a safe, caring, nurturing, and trusting environment for children who may have experienced trauma. Trauma can include lots of different things such as discrimination, bereavement, or mental health issues.


Parents can expect their children to receive a high standard of care at both sites. Children who are already attending the Sheffield Hallam nursery will continue to be cared for in a safe and homely environment while being given the space and freedom needed to explore and grow.

Our partners, Save the Children UK, will offer their expertise to support parental engagement in learning and building positive home learning environments.

Nursery staff will have opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge of the early years through the centre. Working alongside researchers to spark innovation, imagination and creativity will provide career and personal development benefits to staff and will enhance the experience of children attending both nurseries.

Nursery opening

The former nursery area in the existing community centre has been fully refurbished and work started in January 2021. The renovation will offer an exciting, comfortable and inspiring space for children to learn and thrive.

The refurbishment is being funded by the Department for Education’s School Nurseries Capital Fund (SNCF).

The outdoor space attached to the nursery will also be refurbished to provide a safe and secure outdoor play and learning environment. Students from Sheffield Hallam studying Architecture and Early Childhood courses will combine knowledge and creativity to help design the space.

The nursery spaces will provide children with the opportunities to:

  • Be stimulated, excited, and follow their interests and needs through play based activities.
  • Share quiet times and opportunities to reflect.
  • Be independent.
  • Have new experiences and ideas supported by skilled practitioners.
  • Develop the characteristics of effective learning that support learning for life.

The outdoor area is as important as the indoor and will provide:

  • A dynamic, responsive environment with an emphasis on flexible resources.
  • Opportunities to be active and experience physical challenge.
  • Opportunities for a wide range of first-hand experiences.
  • Contact with the natural world to experience the seasons and the weather.
  • Opportunities to meet with the wider community.

To find out more about the Early Years and Community Research Centre, including opportunities to get involved, please email us at