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A decade of rapid change, which included exploring new theories about child development and seeking a greater understanding of the needs of all children.

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Our story begins

On October 1st 1963, we formally opened for business as the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care, with eight members of staff (we have over 100 today). On November 25th 1970, we officially became the National Children’s Bureau.

In November 1970, we were officially incorporated as the National Children's Bureau, having spent our first seven years as the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care.
Certificate of incorporation for the National Children's Bureau

A leading force in child development

Our first director was Dr Mia Kellmer Pringle, who came to Britain as a teenage Jewish refugee escaping the Nazis, before becoming one of the UK’s leading authorities on child psychology and development.

Dr Mia Kellmer Pringle, director of the National Children's Bureau 1963-1981. CREDIT: The Times: News Licensing
Dr Mia Kellmer Pringle

An immediate focus on putting children first

Our founding principles were to foster communication and collaboration among all professionals and service providers specialising in childhood development; to promote research pertaining to children; to advocate for improved children's services; and to pair policy recommendations with hard research in related fields. These principles remain as relevant today as they were on the day we were founded.

cover of booklet titled: "Introducing the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care"


NCDS is launched

The National Child Development Study (NCDS) began, tracking the progress of all 17,000 children born during one week in March 1958 in England, Scotland and Wales. Listen to this fascinating archive interview with our founding director Dr Mia Kellmer Pringle in conversation with Rex Keating in 1971, discussing the National Child Development Study and the role played by NCB (or the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care as we were known when our work began on the NCDS). Many thanks to the British Library for providing this clip from their collections.

Dr Mia Kellmer Pringle
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This is a clip from a film made in 2019 by the CLS to celebrate 60 years of the study. CREDIT: UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, 2019

Documenting lives for six decades

The National Child Development Study was not originally intended to be an ongoing study. However, in the early 1960s, the government gave the director of the study, Neville Butler, the funds and support to follow up the 1958 children at age 7. Since then, there have been nine further attempts to trace all study members. After the first four, responsibility passed from NCB to the Social Statistics Research Unit at City University and in 1998 the management of the NCDS was transferred to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the Institute of Education, today part of University College London. CLS has overseen the study ever since.

Click here to watch the full film.


Calling on No.10 to tackle child poverty

In 1965, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) was formed in order to address the issues of families living in dire poverty and substandard housing. Its letter to the Prime Minister on 22 December 1965 was signed by individuals interested in child development including academics, leaders of charities and Dr John Bowlby, psychiatrist and pioneer of attachment theory. The group visited the Prime Minister Harold Wilson on 24 December 1965 to highlight the effects of child poverty.

Article from The Times newspaper
The handing over of a joint letter organised by the Child Poverty Action Group in December 1965 received media coverage, including this article in The Times. CREDIT: The Times: News Licensing


Invaluable insights to transform understanding of child development

The first four NCDS surveys (1964, 1968, 1973, 1980) were carried out by NCB. The report on the first survey, 11,000 Seven-Year-Olds, was published in 1967 and revealed the importance of a child’s home background on early educational achievements. Policymakers, doctors, teachers, charities and others have used the findings from NCDS to develop services and policies that helped improve people’s education, development and wellbeing.

11,000 Seven-Year-Olds (1967) was NCB's first report on the NCDS data, written by Dr Kellmer Pringle, Ron Davie (later NCB Director 1981-1990) and Neville Butler, the director of the NCDS.
Front cover of the NCB publication 11,000 Seven Year Olds. Title name and authors.


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Edited clips from documentary about extreme poverty in St Ann's, Nottingham, made by Thames TV in 1969.

A harsh reality for many families

Some news and documentary programmes highlighted the levels of poverty endured by families. This edited clip from a 1969 episode of the Thames TV series Report (directed by a young Stephen Frears) that focused on the St Ann’s area of Nottingham features a family with five young children living in particularly dreadful conditions. CREDIT: Fremantle