Early start is best

Good quality early-years education, from the age of two upwards, improves children's intellectual development in their first two years at school, according to a major research study.

The latest phase of the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education Project (EPPE), found that well-designed pre-school experiences have lasting effects on achievement and have a major impact at least until the end of key stage 1. Disadvantaged children benefit the most, both educationally and socially, especially when they mix with peers from a range of backgrounds.

Wales is piloting a play-based foundation curriculum for three to seven-year-olds. But the study's findings suggest starting education even younger is beneficial.

The longitudinal study of 3,000 youngsters initially assessed children at three to four years to create an individual profile, and again at entry to school to compare their progress. Further assessments were carried out at the end of Years 1 and 2.

A team of researchers led by Professor Kathy Sylva from Oxford university found that children who had attended some form of pre-school provision had better all-round development than those who had attended none.

Children who started education before they were three showed better intellectual development. But those who attended part-time benefited as much as those who attended full-time.

Good-quality pre-school experiences helped to develop the language and reading ability of disadvantaged children and their behaviour and social skills improved. Overall, social development was better among girls than boys in this age group.

Nursery schools and settings which combined care and education were the best.

foundation pilots 2, analysis 22

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