Research malaise

5th December 2008 at 00:00

Given its less than auspicious track record on research into the early years foundation stage, it's no surprise that the Department for Children, Schools and Families has chosen to release essentially meaningless data on levels of development by ethnicity ("First stats on ethnic pupils' progress", TES, November 28).

Given the Eurocentric culture-bound assumptions regarding what constitutes a "good level of development", such evidence tells us next to nothing objective about comparative achievement levels and everything about how easy or difficult it is to shoehorn children from diverse cultures into paradigm-bound assumptions about developmental normality, Western style.

Your additional report on the latest findings of the Effective Pre-School and Primary Education project merely adds to the impression of a research malaise in the DCSF; for finding that there seems to be an association between quality early experience and later outcomes simply begs the crucial question about what such quality comprises. Without the complex research necessary to ascertain this information, it may well be that what EPPE (and the Government) assume to be the active ingredients in quality provision are actually a wild goose chase that misses the crucial variables at work.

Certainly, the dramatically impressive results of the developmentally appropriate and comparatively cheap Reading Recovery for six-year-olds suggests that the almost Pounds 2 billion spent last year on early years (including, most prominently, the EYFS) might have been better spent in well targeted interventions for deprived and educationally challenged children, instead of such expensive and non-discriminating policy interventions as EYFS that are quite unnecessary for most pre-school children.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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