New funding will lead to better outcomes for poorer children

Early years providers – schools, nurseries and childminders – will be given up to £300 for every three and four year old from a low income family to help them get a good start in their education, the Government has announced today. Commenting on proposals to extend the pupil premium into the early years of learning, Steve Higgins, Professor of Education, Durham University & author of the Sutton Trust/ EEF Toolkit, says research suggests the potential gains are great, but the money must follow the evidence:

“Early investment in educational success is like compound interest, the earlier the investment, the greater the potential gain, however, like the Pupil Premium it is important that we have evidence to base decisions on as it will be easier to spend the early years premium ineffectively. The impact of many early years interventions fades overtime, so we need to understand what will have a lasting impact or how to maintain effects over time.

We do know that the progress made by children in the reception year has a lasting impact. Children who make good progress in reception maintain that advantage up to the end of primary school, so the more successful we can help children to be in the early years the better. The earlier we can narrow the gap the more likely it is to remain small.

Research from the Sutton Trust/ Education endowment Foundation Toolkit suggests: high quality provision is essential with well-qualified and well-trained staff; such provision is likely to be characterised by the development of positive relationships between staff and children and by engagement of the children in activities which support pre-reading, the development of early number concepts and non-verbal reasoning; extended attendance, that is a year or more and starting early, that is at aged 3  is more likely to have an impact than shorter durations and starting later, which on average produce much lower gains; disadvantaged children benefit from good quality programmes, especially where these include a mixture of children from different social backgrounds, and a strong educational component.”

Comment from Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at Oxford University & leading expert on early years education:

“The 2014 Ofsted report on Early Years provision found that settings in  poorer neighbourhoods (defined by quintiles of income) had lower quality. Additionally, the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project  found that quality was higher in the maintained sector where there were more trained teachers.

Ofsted also found quality higher in maintained settings compared to the  Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector.  So, an effective way to use the premium to improve quality would be to pay more qualified staff, especially in poor neighbourhoods. This in turn should increase quality. The positive  effect of higher qualifications  on quality has been shown by EPPSE and also by Sandra Mathers (Nuffield report, 2014). Higher quality should eventually lead to better  outcomes for poor children.”


(NOTE TO EDITORS : Professor Higgins’ comments draws on the Sutton Trust / EEF toolkit and from the following research Tymms, P., Jones, P., Albone, S., & Henderson, B. (2009), The first seven years at school, Educational Assessment and Evaluation Accountability, 21, 67‐80.; also Tymms, P., Merrell, C. and Henderson, B. (2000) Baseline Assessment and Progress during the First Three Years at School. Educational Research and Evaluation 6(2) p105 – 109).

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