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Giving all children a head-start to their educational experience

19 Apr

I           Catch them young and grow them well

Eons ago, Aristotle said: “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the main.”  Several centuries later, the Jesuits adopted as their maxim: “Give me a child for his first seven years and I will give you the man.” So why is it that the nation continues to spend so much more on pupils on the cusp of leaving school than those who are starting out on their education? Would it not be a much better investment, in the words of the title to a compelling piece written by Helen Ward for The Times Educational Supplement on 24 March 2017 if we “flip the system”?

In 2012, the Sutton Trust found – as reported in its Social Mobility Report – a 19-month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest four- and five-year-olds in the UK.  IN 2016, 54% of children entitled to free school meals were at a good level of development by the end of the Reception year.  It was 72% for the rest.  The Sutton Trust suggested unequivocally that we can do much to close the gap with high-quality early years education.

According to Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), “There is emerging evidence that, particularly for disadvantaged children, people giving them a chance to get a flying start in early learning is one of the best ways to close the gap.”

A Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) statement declared that a good quality pre-school experience for a child has a positive impact on her/his results at the age of 15.  The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) tracked 3,000 children as they entered school to find that at seven those who had attended pre-school did better than those that hadn’t.  This was most pronounced for the poorest pupils.  The report said: “While not eliminating disadvantage, good quality pre-school provision can be seen as an effective means of achieving targets concerning social exclusion and breaking cycles of disadvantage.”

In Michigan, USA, the Perry Pre-school Study, which took off in 1962, found that disadvantaged young people who had attended an educational programme were less likely to show delinquent behaviour by the age of 15 than their peers. In another Chicago study, the Child-Parent Centre followed 1,400 children through to the age of 28 to discover that attending pre-school was linked to higher educational attainment and income and lower rates of imprisonment or drug-use.

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