Two-year-old pilot study finds high-quality settings make a difference.
Five-year-olds who took part in the initial two-year-old pilot of free early education places did no better at school at the end of the Reception year than other children, a Government study has found.
However, researchers found evidence that children who took part in the pilot and attended high-quality settings ‘performed somewhat better at age five than those children who attended low or adequate quality settings as part of the pilot.'
Research carried out for the Department for Education has found there is no evidence that overall children who took part in the pilot had higher scores in their Early Years Foundation Stage Profile assessments than children who did not attend the pilot.
But analysis comparing children in the pilot group who attended high quality settings with those who attended adequate or low quality settings found that the high quality group 'scored significantly higher' in the communication, language and literacy and creative development early learning goals.
The report says, 'This provides some evidence that high quality settings made a positive difference to children who attended the pilot.'
The study, The early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children: Age Five Follow-up, also found no evidence that children in the pilot were any more likely than children in the comparison group to take up free early education places at three and four. The exception was children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Other research has shown that take-up of early education at three and four is lower among children from BME backgrounds, indicating that the pilot helped improve take up for these children.
The original pilot provided early years education to more than 13,500 two-year-olds between 2006 and 2008.
Thirty-two local authorities took place in the pilot with children typically attending for 7.5 hours a week.
The two-year-old places in the pilot 'differ significantly' from those that will be available for low-income families from September, the researchers say.
For example, in the pilot a wide range of families were targeted and pilot places were available in a variety of early years settings, (although all were required to use Birth to Three Matters.)
From September, children in lower-income families will receive 15 hours a week of early education, preferably in good or outstanding settings. The revised EYFS is also now in place.
The authors of the research say therefore that the findings of their report 'cannot be seen to represent the impact of the early education for two year olds to be introduced from September 2013.'
The Department for Education commissioned NatCen Social Research to carry out the study, which uses data from an evaluation of the pilot carried out by NatCen and the University of Oxford for the Labour Government in 2009.
The new study examines the same children’s outcomes at the age of five to see if there are any longer-term benefits by analysing EYFSP results and also whether children who took part in the pilot were more likely to take up early education when they were three or four years old.
The National Day Nurseries Association said that the research backs up findings from previous studies that show the importance of high-quality early years education.
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications, NDNA said, ‘As an offering of 7.5 hours a week to a relatively small number of children selected and implemented in different ways by 32 local authorities, the offer in the pilot was quite different to the national roll-out of 15 hours entitlement to 40 per cent of two-year-olds by 2014.
‘The important point to take from this study is that, in common with other research, it shows that to make a difference to children’s outcomes, early education and childcare must be high quality. NDNA welcomes the focus the Department for Education is putting on delivering the two-year-old offer only in settings rated good and outstanding by Ofsted.
‘It is important that there is investment in quality and sufficient funding from local and national Government to providers for places to enable them to offer the high-quality provision that will make a difference to children and families.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘The report reinforces earlier studies which demonstrate the importance of children attending high-quality childcare provision and needs to be read in the context that Ofsted judges almost three quarters (74 per cent) of provision to be either Good or Outstanding.
‘It also reinforces EPPE’s finding of the importance of high-quality provision, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
‘This report challenges the sector to improve across the board so that every child from the age of two upwards can benefit from high-quality provision. That is why we welcome the focus of Ofsted inspections outlined in the More Great Childcare document, as there will be a stronger emphasis on re-inspecting and supporting weaker providers.’
By Catherine Gaunt
Source: Nursery World - http://goo.gl/Ta9iw