Invest in early years to make a difference

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
I was interested to read the letter from a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland in The TESS ("Smaller classes cause big problems", February 9). I agree with all the points made - the core point being that the huge amount of money required to implement the "one size fits all" EIS call for smaller classes could be much better spent.

Time and again, we hear that, if we want to make a real difference to the life chances of Scotland's children, we need to invest in nursery education.

Various statistics have been quoted recently including 17:1 - for every pound;1 spent in the early years, the state would save pound;17 further down the line. More believable, and more often quoted, is 7:1. Even that ought to be a good signal of where to spend the cash.

In the run-up to the election, we will hear more about each political party's plans for education. If any party is serious about improving achievement and tackling the Neet group, they could do a lot worse than promise significant investment in the early years.

If money is to be spent on reducing class sizes, this should be a focused policy which targets resources where reducing class sizes will make a difference. Why plough untold millions into reducing class sizes among high-achieving, well-motivated students?

Tom Burnett president, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland

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