Acorn Early Years Foundation supports an action research group made up of eight passionate graduate leaders, all of which have a keen interest in undertaking action research and promoting evidence-based practice. The action research group meets regularly and aims to conduct research that will help Acorn, and the wider sector, better understand the impact of different provisions within early years care and education. 

Currently, Acorn's action research group is guided by two underlying themes:

  1. Acorn's charitable status and Social Impact
  2. Acorn's Relational Pedagogy and ethic of care

Below is a summary of some of the research projects that the group is conducting. 

Opportunities and Challenges for Social Enterprises in the Early Years Sector

Acorn’s ethic of care underpins the ethos of the organisation, and one strand of research being undertaken is about how this is intrinsic to being a social enterprise and the challenge of providing high quality care that is also affordable and accessible. The doctoral research that is underway is exploring the culture and ethos of early years organisations, particularly in terms of leadership and governance.

The Impact of Home-Visits on the Child's Wellbeing and Involvement

From September 2018, Acorn will be monitoring and evaluating the impact of home visits on children's' wellbeing and involvement during the settling-in and other transitional periods. The research will be taking place at three Acorn settings, and the impact of the home visits will be measured over several years. Using triangulated research methods involving regular parent/carer surveys, interviews with key people, and regular child observations using the Leuven scale as the framework, the research aims to explore three areas:

  1. The impact of home-visits on the children's wellbeing and involvement during the settling in process
  2. The impact of home-visits on the children's wellbeing and involvement during key transitional periods
  3. The impact of home-visits on parent engagement and involvement at the setting

Acorn's Social Impact

The action research group is leading the work on calculating the social impact of the organisation, using Acorn's Impact Model as the framework for the work. Clear outcomes and outputs have been identified for each individual aspect of the impact model which has helped formulate a measurement framework involving a variety of quantitative and qualitative measures. The action research group will be using this measurement framework to publish an annual impact report from 2019 onwards.