HAVE YOU SEEN …?
Prof. Peter Moss has written about the OECD’s IELS study in which he suggests that, although progress seems to be floundering because very few (possibly only 2) countries appear to have signed up, the OECD seems not to be acknowledging this weakness in the programme’s intended reach/sample. He also criticises the apparent lack of attention to children’s consent to participate, OECD’s lack of engagement with constructive criticisms that have been circulated about the design and consequently the inability of the methodology to attend to diversity issues or to be culturally sensitive. Read more.
Closing Gaps Early: The role of early years policy in promoting social mobility in England is a new report from The Sutton Trust which explores how ‘early years childcare and education touches on many aspects of social policy, from education to the labour market to the benefits system. It is a tricky area to get right, and as our new research shows, England has a lot to be proud of in this area, having made good progress over the last 20 years on parental leave policies and early education provision. However, there remains a substantial gap in the school readiness of less well-off children and their more advantaged classmates by the time they start school – one that has finally started to narrow but which remains at over 17 percentage points. This gap continues to widen throughout the school years, so it is essential that we close it early so children can begin their formal education on a level playing field.’
Nurturing ‘buds of development’: from outcomes to opportunities in early childhood practice (Hayes, N. and Filipovic, K. 2017, International Journal of Early Years Education). Increasingly policy support for early childhood education is built around an emphasis on preparing children for school and preparing future citizens to become productive members of society. The ‘measurable outcomes’ _discourse renders invisible the critical contribution of the processes of everyday early childhood practice to children’s development. However, research suggests that those working in the early years may lack the language and strategies for supporting their educational practice. This paper calls for a shift in policy and pedagogical discourse from assessing outcomes towards providing rich, day-to-day learning opportunities. The researchers argue that a shift in narrative could refocus early childhood policy on supporting an early childhood pedagogy that would explicitly reflect current understanding of what is most beneficial to children’s development and well-being.
Teaching 4 & 5 years old: The Hundred Review in to the Reception Year in England was published on 22nd May 2017. It is a comprehensive, wide ranging and evidence based review of current practice. It explores the issues and challenges faced by YR teachers and provides recommendations for supporting effective pedagogy and good outcomes for children. You can read the full report here and an executive summary here.
Education Select Committee report on Primary Assessment (May 2017). This report from the House of Commons Education Select Committee finds that assessment is closely linked to the accountability system in primary schools, with Key Stage 2 results used to hold schools and teachers to account on the progress and attainment of pupils. However, the high stakes system can negatively impact teaching and learning, leading to narrowing of the curriculum and ‘teaching to the test’, as well as affecting teacher and pupil wellbeing. Recommendations include: The stakes should be lowered at primary school in order to combat some of these negative impacts. Performance tables should include a rolling three-year average of Key Stage 2 attainment and progress data to reduce the focus on an individual year’s results. Ofsted must also ensure that it inspects the whole curriculum, not just English and maths, and does not focus too heavily on Key Stage 2 data. The committee supports the introduction of an improved progress measure, but the Government must be cautious if a baseline measurement is introduced. It should be designed as a diagnostic tool to help teachers identify pupils’ needs and must avoid shifting negative consequences of high stakes accountability to early years.
Pie, fry, why: Language play in three- to five-year-old children (Read, K., James, S. and Weaver, A. (2017) Journal of Early Childhood Research). This study examined the relationship between four common types of language play and their correlations with the verbal and social abilities of three- to five-year-old children. Researchers designed four language play elicitation games involving creating rhymes, word switching, word creation and hyperbolic play. Children’s ability to produce novel play for each game was measured, and classroom teachers filled out assessments of children’s verbal and peer interaction skills. Results indicated that, while children’s peer interaction scores were not related to their play scores, children’s verbal skills scores were highly correlated with their language play scores.
Practitioners’ constructions of love in early childhood education and care (Cousins, S. 2016) This research explored practitioners’ views and constructions of love within early years settings. Unstructured interviews were carried out with senior practitioners in five contrasting settings. A range of qualitative methods was applied to the constructions over an extended period, and a thematic analysis was carried out. Practitioners talked about wide-ranging aspects of practice in response to the narrative prompt about loving children, including the importance of showing love through touch, familial and non-familial love, loving to be with children, and love as incorporating teaching lessons for the future. A definition of love is needed to facilitate professional discussions about love in early years settings away from children’s own homes.
Synthetic Phonics and Baseline Assessment (Prof. Margaret Clark).
Early years workforce strategy (Department for Education, March). This document outlines the government’s plans to help employers attract, retain and develop early years staff.
PACEY has just published the results of its second survey of the childcare and early years sector. Building Blocks 2017: A report on the state of the childcare and early years sector in England looks at a wide range of issues affecting the childcare and early years workforce, including experience, qualifications and training, working conditions, finances and future plans. This year’s survey of nearly 2000 practitioners paints a picture of a sector that is highly experienced, increasingly well-qualified, dedicated and committed to improvement. We also outline a series of practical steps government and local authorities need to take now which revolve around three core aims: ensuring that the early years and childcare entitlement works for all providers; supporting childcare providers to improve and sustain their businesses; raising awareness of child-minding.
Getting the state out of pre-school childcare (Institute of Economic Affairs, February). This report argues that the free entitlement to childcare for all parents in England should be scrapped in favour of a system aimed at disadvantaged children. It claims that state intervention in pre-school and childcare has made it expensive by international standards with high costs to parents, and that many lower-cost providers such as childminders have been driven out of the sector. The report also argues that attempts to improve the quality of childcare have ended up increasing the amount of regulation, while failing to produce better outcomes. The Report states that ‘government subsidy and regulation of childcare and pre-school is a ‘feel-good’ policy which it is difficult to challenge or question. But it should be fundamentally reassessed under the guiding principle of allowing parents to make free choices about the types and quality of provision they want for their children.
Study of Early Education and Development: Good Practice in Early Education (DfE/SEED, January). This study is reported as exploring how good quality early years settings articulate, establish and sustain good practice that has the potential to improve child outcomes. Focusing on provision for two- to four-year-olds, it examines good practice in relation to curriculum planning, assessment and monitoring, staffing, managing transitions and communication with parents and home learning. Sixteen case studies were carried out across England with a range of early years settings assessed as having ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ quality provision by 4Children.
Untapped potential: how England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children (Save the Children, November). This report finds that 10,000 new teachers are urgently needed to bolster early years education in England. Applications have plummeted by 63% as graduates are put off by low salaries. The charity also highlights worst affected areas of the country in a new ranking and calls for the government to invest urgently in the sector. The charity warns that more than
a quarter of a million children are at greater risk of falling behind by the time they reach school, and staying behind throughout their lives, because of the chronic shortage of nursery teachers. The full report is available from Save the Children upon request.
Taking Part 2015/16: annual child report (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, July). This report presents the annual findings for children aged 5 to 15 years. It shows that between April 2015 and March 2016, almost all children had engaged with the arts in the last year (98.3%), 65.6% of children had visited a library in the last 12 months, a significant decrease from 75.3% in 2008/09 and from 70.3% in 2014/15, 61.1% of children had visited a museum or gallery in the last 12 months, a similar proportion to 63.2% in 2008/09 and 62.2% in 2014/15, amongst all children, 88.9% had taken part in sport in the four weeks prior to the interview, a similar proportion to 89.9% in 2008/09 and 87.2% in 2014/
Early years and life chances: MPs hear from experts and providers. This is a joint inquiry by the House of Commons Education select committee and the Work and Pensions select committee into ‘Foundation years and the UK’s Government’s life chances strategy’. MPs heard from a panel of experts and providers, including Professor Michael Thomas, Director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience and representatives of children’s charities, including several that run children’s centres. Professor Thomas highlighted the impact of deprivation and the home environment on the development of children’s brains in the early years, saying that evidence supports targeting resources at the less well off before they begin their formal education. Throughout the session there was an emphasis on the importance of developing a strong workforce of early years teachers to ensure high quality provision is available.
Entitlement to free early years education and childcare (Commons Public Accounts Committee, June). This report warns there may not be enough providers willing to provide the additional 15 hours of free childcare being introduced by the government in 2017. It also says that the DfE does not have robust plans to ensure there are sufficient qualified early years staff so that providers can continue to offer high quality childcare. While significant progress has been made towards ensuring all three and four-year-olds benefit from 15 hours of free early education and childcare, take-up for disadvantaged two-year-olds has been significantly lower. The report highlights unacceptable variations in the amount of information available to parents about access to free childcare, as well as concerns that some providers offer the free entitlement only on condition that parents pay for additional hours. It concludes that the DfE lacks sufficient data to measure the impact of free childcare and urges it to report back by September on how it will measure the value for money of the current and new entitlement. e value for money of the current and new entitlement.
Early learning and childcare: delivering for disadvantaged children in England (Education Policy Institute, July). There is a large gap in outcomes between disadvantaged children and their peers by age 5 in England. This is in spite of substantial early years investment over 15 years and clear evidence that regular, high-quality early learning can transform life chances. This paper by ARK, an academy network, reviews the impact of policies to date, considers the outlook for disadvantaged children and the threat to their provision from the new 30-hour entitlement and proposes a new future direction. It makes four main recommendations.
The state of the world’s children 2016: a fair chance for every child (UNICEF, June). The report argues that progress for the most disadvantaged children is the defining condition for delivering on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Unless the world tackles inequity today, by 2030, over 165 million children will live on no more than US$1.90 a day, nine out of 10 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 70 million children under the age of 5 will die of largely preventable causes. 750 million women will have been married as children, perpetuating inter-generational cycles of disadvantage. There is a clear choice to be made – invest in accelerated progress for the children being left behind, or face the consequences of a far more divided and unfair world by 2030. The report concludes with a set of recommendations to help chart the course towards a more equitable world.
Education provision: children under 5 years of age, January 2016 (DfE, June). Data on the provision of education for children under 5 years of age in the local-authority-maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors in England, includes the number of children benefiting from funded early years education, and the numbers benefiting by provider type. It shows that the proportion of disadvantaged two-year-olds taking up free education rose from 58 per cent of all eligible children in 2015 to 69 per cent in January 2016. However, the proportion of two-year-olds receiving free childcare is still low compared with rates for three- and four-year-olds, 95 per cent of whom take up the 15 hours per week of free early education.
Entitlement to free early years education and childcare (Commons Public Accounts Committee, June 2016). This report warns there may not be enough providers willing to provide the additional 15 hours of free childcare being introduced by the government in 2017. It also says that the DfE does not have robust plans to ensure there are sufficient qualified early years staff so that providers can continue to offer high quality childcare. While significant progress has been made towards ensuring all three and four-year-olds benefit from 15 hours of free early education and childcare, take-up for disadvantaged two-year-olds has been significantly lower. The report highlights unacceptable variations in the amount of information available to parents about access to free childcare, as well as concerns that some providers offer the free entitlement only on condition that parents pay for additional hours. It concludes that the DfE lacks sufficient data to measure the impact of free childcare and urges it to report back by September on how it will measure the value for money of the current and new entitlement. e value for money of the current and new entitlement.
Better Spaces for Learning (Royal Institute for British Architects, May). This report suggests that too many British pupils are trying to learn in classrooms which are damaging their health and education, and too many teachers are quitting, blaming stressful and overcrowded working conditions, according to this report. It says that schools are not delivering the value for money they could if they embraced the principles of good design. This is preventing the available money in the pot from stretching as far as possible. The report says that the government needs to put good design at the top of the agenda, reviewing its school building programme and taking into account evidence-based design.
Phonics screening check and key stage 1 assessments: England 2015 (DfE May). This statistical release provides information on the achievements of pupils in the 2015 phonics screening check and at key stage 1, including by pupil characteristics: gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs. Headline findings include: More than three in four pupils met the expected phonics standard in year 1 (6-year -olds) in 2015. This is a 3 percentage point increase from last year at 77%. By the end of year 2 (age 7), 9 in 10 pupils met the standard in 2015, a 1 percentage point increase compared to 2014. Mathematics increased by 1 percentage point on 2014 to 93%. There is no change in reading at level 2 or above at 90%. Writing has increased by 1 percentage point to 88% at level 2 or above. Girls continue to lead by 8 percentage points in year 1 phonics. At level 2 or above in KS1 subjects, the largest difference is for writing with a gap of 8 percentage point
Further local authorities reveal funding for 30-hours pilot: Analysis by the Pre School Learning Alliance of funding rates set to be provided to childcare settings in five local authorities taking part in trials from September, found that they will receive existing levels of funding for the first 15 hours and slightly more for the second 15 hours. The PLA says that in light of the government previously saying that the national roll-out will involve higher funding rates for all 30 hours, the trial risks failing to reflect how the scheme will work in practice from 2017. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the PLA, said the funding situation calls into question the value of the pilot.
The Losing in the Long Run Report (NCB, Action for Children and The Children’s Society, March) examines the amount of money central government is giving to local authorities for early intervention services and questions the sustainability of further cuts. Early help services include children’s centres. The report reveals that government funding for these and other youth services is expected to be cut by 71 per cent, from more than £3.2 billion to less than £1 billion, between 2010 and 2020.
Survey of parents with children aged birth-to-14 and parents’ use of childcare and early years provision (Department for Education, March). This publication provides information parents’ use of childcare and early years provision and their views and experiences. Overall, 79% of families in England with children aged birth-to-14 had used some form of childcare during their most recent term-time week. This equated to 4.3 million families or 6.3 million children. The majority of parents (64%) rated the overall quality of local childcare provision as very or fairly good. This proportion has increased from 58% in 2012-13. Headline findings suggest that the use of formal childcare is less widespread in areas of higher deprivation. The survey also found that 20 per cent of families earning less than £10,000 a year are not receiving free childcare, compared with six per cent of families earning £45,000 or more. The report highlights the difficulties some families face with the cost of childcare.
National Day Nurseries Association (February). The NDNA seventh annual survey warns that fewer than half of nurseries will be able to offer extended free childcare planned by the government. The NDNA says that underfunding of the scheme means many nurseries in England will struggle to provide the extended free care for pre-school children. The survey found that found only 45 per cent of the 485 nurseries questioned said they were likely to extend the number of free hours on offer. Nurseries said they were currently managing to offer 15 hours of free childcare a week by plugging the shortfall in government funding. In practice, this meant parents paid a higher rate for the hours their child spent in nursery above 15 hours. The average nursery had to absorb a loss of about £34,000 a year due to the funding gap, with 89% of nurseries making a loss on free places.
Early language development and children’s primary school attainment in English and maths (Save the Children, February). This study suggests that children with poor language skills at age five are significantly more likely to struggle with maths and English at age 11. It analysed the progress of 5,000 children using data from the Millennium Cohort Study and the National Pupil Database in England. Findings include that 21% of pupils who struggled with language as they began school, failed to meet the expected standard in their Sats in maths at age 11 and 23% failed to meet the expected standard in English. The analysis also looked at the impact of language skills on children’s attainment when other factors, such as children’s experience of poverty, their parents’ education and their previous attainment, were taken into consideration. Critically this showed that even when other factors are considered, children who struggle with their language skills at age five are much less likely to meet the expected standard in English and maths by the end of primary school. There is strong evidence that high-quality early education and childcare can help boost the early language skills of young children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This research re-emphasises the need to invest in good quality early years services and support for parents, so that every child has the basic skills they need to succeed at school.
Making the case for play: Findings of the Sense Public Inquiry into access to play opportunities for disabled children with multiple needs (Sense, February). For three months between September and November 2015, Sense undertook a public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for children aged birth-5 with multiple needs in England and Wales. The Case for Play Inquiry was designed to provide an evidence base and thorough understanding of the following questions: What are the benefits of play for children with multiple needs? Do barriers exist to young children with multiple needs accessing play settings and activities? If so, what are these? What can be done to increase access to play opportunities for young children with multiple needs?
Manifesto from the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health (BHFNC) (January 2016). This manifesto states that 91 per cent of children aged 2-4 years do not get the three hours physical activity per day recommended by the Chief Medical Officer in the guidelines for early years. It sets out four key recommendations for policy makers to ensure every child has access to high quality physical activity opportunities from birth: comprehensive awareness training regarding the physical activity guidelines for early years; guidance and training for early years practitioners on how to promote and develop children’s physical activity; access to safe and stimulating physical activity opportunities; and tracing of physical activity levels in children by health professionals.
School Efficiency Metric (DfE January 2016) This document provides technical detail on how school efficiency has been defined and calculated in the School Efficiency Metric. It has been produced so that users of the tool can understand in more detail: • How school efficiency has been defined; • What data has been used to calculate school efficiency; • How the School Efficiency Metric has been calculated; • How school efficiency is presented in the Metric spreadsheet publication and how it can be interpreted. See our Twitter pages for responses to this.
Towards an Early Years Workforce Development Strategy for England (2016: Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) . This is a new policy briefing which explores how early years practitioners can be better supported to deliver high quality care and early education. The briefing makes clear that this workforce plan must not only encourage new entrants into the sector but also support and motivate current early years practitioners to stay and progress their careers. The Report makes a series of practical recommendations for how to support and motivate practitioners to continuously improve their skills, gain higher qualifications and progress their careers. The recommendations cover three key areas: increasing qualification levels; career pathways and progression routes; and recognising and encouraging continued professional development.
The Impact of Children’s Centres: Studying the effects of chidren’s centres in promoting better outcomes for yung chidren and their families. Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE Strand 4) – Research Report (DfE, December, 2015). This report looks at the effect of children’s centres on 13 measured outcomes for a large sample of families. The results showed that use of children’s centre services and certain features of children’s centre organisation were significant predictors of family, mother and child outcomes. In general such effects were relatively small but consistent and positive effects were found across a number of outcome measures. Greater impacts were detected for mother and family outcomes (e.g. improved mother’s mental health, less chaotic family life, reduced Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction). Fewer effects were found for child outcomes (e.g. cognitive abilities at age 3). This might have been anticipated as most children’s centres were encouraged to signpost families to childcare providers and were not offering childcare places directly themselves, thus the opportunity to have direct effects on children was limited. Centres also improved the early home learning environment, which past research evidence suggests is linked to improved child outcomes at school age.
Phonics screening check and key stage 1 assessments: England 2015 (Department for Education, Dec. 2015) Provisional information on the 2015 phonics screening check and assessments at key stage 1, including breakdowns by pupil characteristics, has been updated to include data on disadvantaged pupils.
Professional Love in Early Years Settings [ PLEYS] project was conducted earlier this year by a small team of researchers at the University of Sheffield, led by Dr Jools Page. The PLEYS project was funded by the University of Sheffield Innovation, Impact and Knowledge Exchange (IIKE) in collaboration with Fennies Nurseries. The website includes a set of professional development materials: the ‘Attachment Toolkit’ which have been trialled and evaluated by Fennies, our collaborating partner. Jools and colleagues invite early years practitioners to use these downloadable materials in their own settings and to provide the team with feedback on their usefulness via our evaluation form which can be found at the bottom of each webpage.
Teachers and literacy: their perceptions, understanding, confidence and awareness (National Literacy Trust, November 2015). The current curriculum requires teachers of all subjects to develop pupils’ spoken language, promote reading for enjoyment and emphasise accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation in written work. This report presents information on how teachers working in schools in England feel about teaching literacy, who they think are responsible for literacy in the school setting, their perceptions of what influences pupils’ literacy attainment, and of their pupils’ literacy. It also focuses on teachers’ confidence teaching literacy, their own reading habits and the teaching resources that they like to draw on. 2,326 teachers from 112 schools in the UK participated in this first literacy survey of teaching professionals. The findings suggest that many experienced teachers are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively deliver literacy outcomes in their subject area.
The letter responding to Jan Dubiel about the EExBA baseline has just been published by TES entitled: ‘Enough is enough – it’s time to scrap all testing in Reception‘. It’s definitely worth reading.
More children than ever starting school ready to learn (DfE, 2015). Statistics show that more than two-thirds of children aged 5 are making good progress against the early years foundation stage profile – a framework for the early years (under 5s) which ensures all children are prepared and ready for school and life.
APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood (2015). This report explores the barriers and opportunities for children’s play in the UK, arguing that play is intrinsically bound up with children’s health and welfare. It cites research stating that a lack of independent play can affect a child’s ability to solve problems, make decisions and feel in control of their lives. It also advises that children’s play, in combination with other large-scale initiatives on nutrition and physical activity, can make a major contribution to reducing childhood obesity. Among the report’s many recommendations is that play should be embedded within a Whole Child Strategy under the overview of a Cabinet Minister for Children responsible for cross-departmental roll out and coordination.
Department for Education (DfE England, 2015). This statistical release covers the percentage of pupils achieving each assessment rating in the early learning goals; the percentage achieving at least the expected level in the prime areas of learning and in the specific areas of literacy and mathematics (good level of development); and the average total points score across all the early learning goals (supporting measure). Key findings include: The percentage of children achieving a good level of development continues to increase, with 66.3% of children achieving a good level of development – an increase of 5.9% points from last year; Girls continue to do better than boys, but the gender gap has decreased for 2 of the 3 key measures; The gap between all children and the lowest 20% of attaining children has narrowed very slightly by 1.9% points from last year and stands at 32.1%.
Ofsted (2015). According to data from over 15,000 settings on the Early Years Register, settings with at least three quarters of staff qualified to NVQ Level 3 or above are more likely to be rated as “outstanding”. In settings where 75 per cent or more of staff are qualified to NVQ Level 3 or above, 14 per cent of providers were rated outstanding. By comparison, just eight per cent of settings achieve the highest rating when 75 per cent of staff are below Level 3 standards. Settings with less than 75 per cent of Level 3-qualified staff were also twice as likely to be rated “inadequate”.
Scottish Government (2015). This report compares outcomes for and experiences of children in households with higher and lower incomes, summarising what the GUS study has revealed about inequalities up to age 8. It also explores whether there is any evidence that the socio-economic gap has narrowed or widened in recent years and highlights some key messages from the study about how to improve outcomes for all children and to reduce inequalities: A rich home learning environment can improve cognitive development for all children, regardless of their socio-economic background; High quality early learning and childcare can help to reduce inequalities in cognitive development; Being born to an older mother makes children more resilient to a range of negative outcomes; Improving the physical and mental health of mothers is likely to have a positive effect on the health and development of their children; Supporting parenting skills can help protect against the impact of adversity and disadvantage; The role of the health visitor, in providing one-to-one advice and support to parents, should be central in the efforts to tackle inequalities in the early years; It is important to ensure that messages about positive parenting practices are understood by grandparents as well as parents.
Pedagogy in early childhood education and care (ECEC): an international comparative study of approaches and policies (Department for Education, 2015).This research brief presents the findings of a review of the range of pedagogical practices and policies within early years’ settings across the world. It compares the pedagogical approaches in early years’ settings in England and those in equivalent Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings in Japan, France, Germany, Denmark, and New Zealand, alongside discussion on how policy levers can be used to influence current practice.
Reception baseline research (Department for Education, 2015). The reception baseline assessment is a measure used to assess the progress of children from entry (at age 4 to 5) to the end of key stage 2 (age 10 to 11). The DfE has published two reports related to baseline assessment. Reception baseline research presents evidence about the views of teachers, school leaders, parents and carers towards reception baseline testing. Reception baseline research: results of a randomised controlled trial, presents findings from a trial testing whether schools’ perceptions of the purpose of the reception baseline test led to differences in pupils’ early attainment.
Early years (Ofsted, July). The annual report on the performance of the early years sector says that 85 per cent of early years settings are now judged good or outstanding, with rising standards evenly spread across all types of early years settings. In addition, the quality of early years provision in 86 per cent of primary schools inspected during the last two terms was good or outstanding. Between 2013 and last year, there was a marked increase in children reaching a good level of development at the end of their Reception year, from 52 per cent to 60 per cent. The report points out that nearly half (42 per cent) of all two-year-olds (around 113,000) eligible for 15 hours of free early education have not taken up their place in any type of setting. It also says that fewer than 5,000 schools are taking two-year-olds and those that do are taking a disproportionate number of children from better-off families. Only nine per cent of two-year-olds in schools are on a funded place. There are 40 local authorities where there are no disadvantaged two-year-olds in any maintained school.
Teaching and play in the early years: a balancing act (Ofsted, July). This good practice survey was commissioned to gather evidence to address the recurring myth that teaching and play are separate, disconnected endeavours in the early years. In particular, inspectors examined the difference that chosen approaches were making to the learning and development of disadvantaged children, especially funded two-year-olds. Key findings include: leaders did not think of teaching and play as separate endeavours. In every playful encounter inspectors observed, adults, consciously or otherwise, were teaching; Inspectors found no one way of approaching teaching and play. The common factor across all of the different approaches observed was the role, influence and interactions of the adult; the prioritisation of speech, language and communication was the cornerstone of leaders’ work with disadvantaged children, especially funded two-year-olds.
Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children (2015) Lilian G. Katz. The main argument presented here is that the traditional debates in the field about whether to emphasize so-called free play or formal beginning academic instruction are not the only two options for the early childhood curriculum … in the early years, another major component of education … must be to provide a wide range of experiences, opportunities, resources and contexts that will provoke, stimulate, and support children’s innate intellectual dispositions.
Too much too soon? What should we be teaching four-year-olds (Norbury, C. and Gooch, D., 2015). This report suggests that the age at which children start school may not matter as much as what happens to them once they get to the classroom. The researchers think the current targets set for children in their first year at school are not developmentally appropriate. Their research, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, demonstrates that the youngest children in the class find these targets particularly challenging because of their lack of oral language skills.
Help to up-skill childcare staff before they reach the frontline: Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah has announced that people looking to work in childcare will be given more help to reach the high levels needed to give children the best start in life, Childcare apprentices will have to show they have a good level of English and maths by the end of their training through the creation of an ‘exit standard’ of a grade C or above in GCSE English and maths.
Study finds physically active children are happier and more confident: The public health campaign Change4Life has launched its ’10 minute shake up’ campaign with Disney. The campaign aims to encourage children to do 10 minute bursts of moderate to vigorous activity, inspired by Disney characters, throughout the day, and every day, in order to meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity children need. This year’s campaign launches to coincide with the publication of an evidence review by British Heart Foundation (BHF) researchers from the University of Oxford and Loughborough University.
UK implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: civil society alternative report 2015 to the UN Committee – England (Children’s Rights Alliance for England). This report highlights how government policies and spending decisions have failed to prioritise children and it advises that the government must put children at the centre of decision-making, including in the forthcoming Budget. The report sets out how the UK government breaches its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), because it is not fully considering how its decisions affect children. The report provides many examples of the views of marginalised children, covering their views on being respected, their experience of violence, being in care, poverty, and how they are treated in school.
Preschool influences on children and young people’s outcomes (Department for Education). The Effective pre-school, primary and secondary education project (EPPSE 3-16+) ran from 1997 to 2014. This report examines the long-term effect of pre-school on children’s education and development throughout compulsory schooling.
Provision for children under 5 years of age: January 2015 (Department for Education). This statistical release provides data on the provision of education for children under 5 years of age, including: the number of children benefiting from funded early years education, providers of funded early years education.
Nick Gibb: the social justice case for an academic curriculum (2015): The Schools Minister sets out the government’s plans to reinforce the importance of a core academic curriculum for all pupils.
Building blocks: A report on the state of the childcare and early years sector in England (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY, 2015)) This survey finds that providers are unable to meet the government’s pledge to extend the number of free early education places, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, without adequate support and funding. Nearly 2,500 childcare professionals participated in the survey. Key findings show that almost seventy per cent of childcare providers say they have no plans to grow their businesses in the next year, and over a quarter of providers are less confident in the future of their business than they were a year ago.
The PreSchool Learning Alliance has published a post-election manifesto – the Early Years Agenda – which outlines its key calls to the new government, focusing on the key areas of funding, schoolification and OfSTED. The Agenda summarises more than a year’s work gathering evidence and data via practitioner surveys, independently-commissioned reports and detailed analysis of government policy, and it is intended that it will help inform the development of early years policy.
Building blocks: A report on the state of the childcare and early years sector in England (Norbury, et al., 2015) This survey by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) finds that providers are unable to meet the government’s pledge to extend the number of free early education places, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, without adequate support and funding. Nearly 2,500 childcare professionals participated in the survey. Key findings show that almost seventy per cent of childcare providers say they have no plans to grow their businesses in the next year, and over a quarter of providers are less confident in the future of their business than they were a year ago.
Younger children experience lower levels of language competence and academic progress in the first year of school: evidence from a population study (2015) Summer-born children are at risk of behaviour problems and poor academic attainment in their first year at school unless the curriculum is tailored to take their needs into account. This study found that the early years foundation curriculum in England favours older children with more advanced language skills and concludes that developing oral language skills and/or ensuring academic targets reflect developmental capacity could substantially reduce the numbers of children requiring specialist clinical services in later years.
How will the Common Inspection Framework affect early years? (2015) This presentation by Ofsted explains how the common inspection framework will affect the inspections of early years settings from September 2015.
The Documentation of Children’s Learning in Early Childhood Education (Schulz, M. (2015) Children and Society, 29: 209–218). In recent years, systematic documentation techniques focusing on children’s learning have been increasingly established in institutions of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). This article addresses the problem of a lack of empirically based knowledge regarding how these techniques are implemented in practice. It refers to theories of practice and performativity in its discussion of assessment and documentation as collective practices in which actors, instruments and practices conjointly produce selections.
Research on Early Childhood Education in the UK (Edward Melhuish).
The Centre for Research in Early Childhood recently conducted a review looking at the evidence base for the impact of early years initiatives in social care, health and education in combatting social and economic disadvantage and underachievement, both in the UK and internationally.
Measuring well-being: a literature review (University of Bristol, Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies and Coram Voice) (March, 2015). Published as part of the Bright Spots project aiming to discover young people’s experiences of the care system, this review sets out to define the concept of well-being and examines the difficulty in measuring the concept, particularly for looked after children.
Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing: a whole school and college approach (Public Health England) (March, 2015). This guidance sets out 8 principles for promoting emotional health and wellbeing in schools and colleges, including: an ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity; enabling student voice to influence decisions; working with parents/carers; targeted support and appropriate referral.
Early years benchmarking tool (Department for Education) (March, 2015). The early years benchmarking tool covers all local authorities in England and includes information on funding, take-up of the early learning entitlement, quality of early years provision, children’s outcomes. It has been updated along with the user guide and the technical note.
The best start at home: what works to improve the quality of parent-child interactions from conception to age 5 years? A rapid review on interventions (Dartington Social Research Unit, University of Warwick and Coventry University for the Early Intervention Foundation) (March, 2015). The EIF’s first What Works Review looks at 32 UK-based early interventions for children from conception to the start of primary school. It considers interventions including group classes, home visits and one-on-one support that enhance parent-child interaction with a view to improving three important outcomes: attachment and parental sensitivity; social and emotional development; and language and communication. The report sets out the range of options available to policy-makers seeking to expand the availability of accessible and effective interventions and to develop new and improved ways of achieving impact using new approaches. It suggests these new approaches should include the following elements: ante-natal and post-natal support, broad based assessment of child development at age 4, better use of programmes and practice with a strong evidence base, clear and consistent messaging about the importance of sensitive, attuned and face to face parent interactions with their children from birth onwards.
Working with families and communities: briefings on the findings of a two-year programme (Barnardo’s) (March, 2015). This briefing reports the findings of the two-year Families and Communities against Sexual Exploitation (FCASE) project. Findings show that working with parents as well as their children is vital to reducing the risk of vulnerable young people being sexually exploited. Children and young people who took part were less likely to display risky behaviour such as going out at night without telling their parents or talking to strangers online. Assessment by Barnardo’s staff reported that the pilot resulted in improved family relationships in 70% of cases while 84% of children and adults who took part were better able to identify abusive and exploitative behaviour and know what action to take.
Early years education and childcare: lessons from evidence and future priorities (Nuffield Foundation , March, 2015) This report reviews the relevant evidence and highlights the key insights that are essential for any informed consideration of changes to early years provision. It states that the immediate priorities should be to ensure that the most effective use is made of existing funding to improve incentives for higher quality care, whilst at the same time improving the evidence base that might support any future funding expansion.
Letter to Nick Gibb (Commons Education Committee, March, 2014) Following its evidence check on starting school, the Committee has written to the School Reform Minister advising that children born prematurely should be allowed to start school based on their due date rather than their birthday. Ministers should ensure education authorities and academy schools offer flexibility to children born in the summer, who will be the youngest in the year.
A world-class teaching profession: government response (Department for Education, March, 2015) The government sets out a summary of responses received to its consultation (including that by TACTYC!) on improving the quality of teachers’ professional development and proposals for an independent professional body, the new College of Teaching. This is expected to be fully independent of government, established and led by teachers; inviting Teaching Schools to bid for funding for projects worth up to £300,000 each – to deliver high-quality, evidence-based professional development programmes; and the establishment of an expert group tasked with producing a new Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development.
Encouraging and Supporting Reading in Primary Schools in England: the next steps (Clark, M. OBE) Analysing four recent sources of information, Prof. Clark argues that the DfE cites synthetic phonics as the best method of teaching reading to all children contrary to the weight of evidence that there is no one best method for all children; makes claims for success in raising literacy levels based on the year on year greater percentage pass on the high stakes phonics check, in the absence of other evidence; intends to `strengthen the requirement for schools to teach children to read through synthetic phonics’; and offers further money to schools succeeding in the phonics check to work in partnership with other schools. On the evidence, she believes that none of these is adequate or sufficient to fully engage young children in reading.
Two-year-olds in England: An Exploratory Study (Georgeson, J. et al., 2015) This TACTYC commissioned study investigated the provision of funded places for two-year-olds in England. From September 2013 free early education has been provided for the 20% most disadvantaged two-year-olds, extending to around 40% of two-year-olds in September 2014, and reflects English government interest in early intervention to compensate for disadvantage and to identify and intervene to address possible special educational needs. The places are offered by a mixed economy of providers across the non-maintained and maintained sector.
The good teacher: understanding virtues in practice (The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, February 2015). This research reveals that teachers believe kindness and honesty are among their main character traits, but do not rank them among the most important qualities needed for the job. The study questioned 546 teachers, respondents were given a list of 24 qualities and asked to pick the six that best described a good teacher. The most popular choice was fairness, picked by 78 per cent. Creativity came second with 68 per cent, followed by a love of learning (61 per cent), humour (53 per cent), perseverance (45 per cent) and leadership (40 per cent). The Jubilee Centre is calling for a greater emphasis to be placed on teachers’ moral virtues, claiming this has been overshadowed by a relentless focus on academic achievement.
Affordable childcare (Lords Affordable Childcare Committee) (February, 2015). This report says that the next government should urgently review the way the budget for early education and childcare is allocated. It must ensure that free childcare places in England are delivered without any extra costs to parents. The Committee believes that there are three main actions the new government must take in order to get the best value for its investment: reprioritise spending in early education and childcare to focus on disadvantaged children; ensure that disadvantaged two year-olds access their free early education in settings rated good or outstanding by OSTED no later than 2020; and address the under-funding of free early education places in the Public, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector.
Schools given £5 million to work with local nurseries (January, 2015):The Minister for Childcare, Sam Gyimah, has announced funding to improve the quality of early years education. The funding will be awarded to more than 60 teaching schools across the country who will partner up with local nurseries to drive up standards and share best practice.
The Coalition’s record on the under-fives: policy, spending and outcomes 2010-2015 (London School of Economics, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, January, 2015). The coalition government’s strategy for improving social mobility emphasised the importance of early childhood. Against a backdrop of tightening austerity, this paper examined what happened in practice to children’s services, family incomes and early child development. It concludes that families with young children have borne one of the heaviest burdens resulting from austerity.
Process evaluation of the two-year-olds in schools demonstration project (National Children’s Bureau and Frontier Economics for the Department for Education, January, 2015). This report details the findings from nearly 50 schools that developed early education provision for 2-years-olds. Overall, the evaluation indicates that schools can make an important contribution to offering funded early education opportunities for two-year-olds and within this, to work in partnership with parents and with other early years providers in order to meet the developmental, social and emotional needs of these children
OfSTED inspection and early years initial teacher training: From April 2015 OfSTED will inspect early years initial teacher training providers which provide training for those working with children up to five years of age. This is part of a drive to help raise standards in nurseries and early years settings.
NDNA annual nursery survey 2015 – England: NDNA’s survey found that nurseries are losing £800 per child per year on funded places for three-and four-year-olds and £700 for two-year-olds. To make up the funding shortfall they are being forced to increase their fees to parents who pay for additional hours or for younger children not eligible for funded places. Nurseries reported their top five challenges as: increasing staff wages; delivering a sustainable free nursery education offer; cost of utilities; achieving a profit or surplus; cost of business rates. Read more by clicking on the title above.
Historical and contemporary evaluations of early childhood programmes (2015): This article by Olivia Saracho discusses and compares how early childhood education programmes have been evaluated for more than a century and how they are being evaluated now. It identifies some of the problems in evaluating such programmes and discusses how assessment can be used to improve programmes and practices in the field.
Study of early education and development: views and experiences of childminders (2014): This Department for Education study (DFE-RR395) explored the experiences and contribution of childminders and their views on current provision, including factors influencing capacity, fees and staffing; experiences of offering funded two and three-year-old provision; views of the infrastructure and support available for the sector, including the introduction of childminder agencies. The findings suggest that the number of childminders offering funded places might increase if the funding available for three and four-year-old places is increased and clear information is disseminated on the accreditation process and eligibility criteria.
Advice on the admission of summer born children: for local authorities, school admission authorities and parents (2014): This updated guidance by the Department for Education, relating to maintained schools, explains the framework within which admission authorities must operate when admitting summer-born children. It should be read in conjunction with the School admissions code.
Provision for children under five years of age in England (January 2014): This DfE publication includes data on the provision of education for children under five years of age, including funded places and overall numbers of children benefiting from early years education. It now also includes the number of two-year-olds taking up their entitlement to government-funded early years education.
APPG Early Years Mathematics: TACTYC was represented by Maulfry Worthington at a House of Commons meeting where the final report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on early years maths was presented. Maulfry had prepared a briefing paper – just click on the links to read both documents.
Play for today: a report into the importance and relevance of play for children and parents in the UK: (27th October, 2014, Eureka! The National Children’s Museum). This study of more than 2,500 children and parents highlights parental anxieties that reflect the economic and risk-averse nature of contemporary society. Although 95% of parents and adult carers surveyed believe that risk in play is a benefit to the child, a quarter of adult participants commented that the quality of play would be improved within a safer environment. Key findings include: 81% of children prefer to play outside as opposed to watching TV; 67% of children have a preference for making up their own games; 59% of children don’t play beyond their own garden alone; 33% of adults feel they don’t have enough time to play with their children; 95% of adults believe risks in play benefit their child; where children prefer to play compared with where their parents played as children has changed significantly, with a clear reduction in play on the street and in the wider countryside
Children of the recession: the impact of the economic crisis on child wellbeing in rich countries: (29th October, 2014 UNICEF). This report ranks 41 countries in the OECD and the European Union according to whether levels of child poverty have increased or decreased since 2008. It shows that 2.6 million children have sunk below the poverty line in the world’s most affluent countries since 2008. UK findings include: over a quarter of children in the UK live in poverty. Between 2008 and 2012, child poverty in the UK increased by 1.6% placing it 25th out of 41 rich countries, below Australia, Canada and Germany, with 25.6% of children in the UK living in poverty. In all 41 countries, children in particularly vulnerable situations, including those in jobless, migrant, lone-parent or large households, are over-represented in the most severe ranges of poverty statistics.
Nurseries ‘must do more’ to give children the best start in life (October, 2014): The English Childcare and Education Minister, Sam Gyimah, says that nurseries and other child carers must do more to help toddlers learn, after statistics show that too few young children are ready for school.
New funding will help most disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds (October, 2014): In its response to an early years pupil premium and funding for 2-year-olds consultation, the English government has announced that schools, nurseries and childminders will be given up to £300 for every 3- and 4-year-old from a low-income family to help prevent them falling behind before they have even started school.
Newly qualified teachers: annual survey 2014 (October 2014): From February to May 2014, the National College for Teaching and Leadership surveyed newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who had successfully completed their initial teacher training in England during the 2012 to 2013 academic year. The NQTs were invited to complete an online questionnaire that asked them to: assess the quality of their initial teacher training in a number of key areas and talk about their induction experiences.
Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results in England, 2013/14: The DfE has published national and local authority level results for Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) assessments in England for 2013 to 2014. Key findings include:
- 60% of children achieved a good level of development – up 8% from last year;
- The average EYFPS point score for 2014 is 33.8 – an increase of 1 point from 32.8 points in 2013;
- 58% of children achieved at least the expected level in all 17 early learning goals;
- There is a 16% gender gap between the percentage of girls and boys achieving a good level of development: 69% of girls achieved a good level of development compared to 52% of boys;
- 53% of children in the most deprived areas achieved a good level of development compared with 65% of children in other areas.
Cautionary tales on interrupting children’s play: a study from Sweden: Adults can be important to children’s play, as they act as ‘play agents’. Their involvement significantly influences the quality of the play activities in which children engage. This article briefly reviews the theoretical assumptions about adults’ role in children’s play to provide context for a study conducted in a preschool setting in Sweden. The study gives recommendations on how daily preschool routines can be conducted so as not to impede the ongoing learning and development processes that may be occurring during play.
Convergence or divergence? A longitudinal analysis of behaviour problems among disabled and non-disabled children aged 3 to 7 in England – Institute of Education, University of London (October, 2014). This study aimed to identify the incidence and development of disabled children’s problem behaviours, including conduct, peer, hyperactivity and emotional problems during the early years using the Millennium Cohort Study, a large-scale, nationally representative UK study. The authors tracked the behaviour problems from age 3 to 7 to examine the emergence of problems and whether disabled girls’ and boys’ behaviour converges or diverges from non-disabled children over time. Results showed that disabled children exhibit more behaviour problems than non-disabled children across disability measures, including a greater increase in peer problems, hyperactivity and emotional problems over time. The findings suggest that further in-school support for disabled children may be needed.
Primary focus: the next stage of improvement for primary schools in England (September, 2014) This report by Policy Exchange advises that over 3,000 primary schools (20%) could fall below the government’s tough new minimum standards in reading, writing and maths in 2016. It says the schools face a ‘perfect storm’ with a fifth of head teachers approaching retirement, continuing cuts in local authority funding and the introduction of rigorous assessment systems. The most effective way to ensure teachers and schools have the capability and capacity to cope with these challenges is to convert all primary schools into Academies, and then ask each school to join an Academy chain by 2020.
Phonics screening check and key stage 1 assessments: England 2014: DfE (September, 2014). These statistics provide information on the attainment for the phonics screening check and key stage 1 teacher assessments, including information by different pupil characteristics: gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals (FSM), and special educational needs (SEN).
New Guidance for SEND for early years: The DfE Early Years: Guide to the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (5 September, 2014). The guide explains the duties and responsibilities of providers of early years education who deal with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families.
Changing Paradigms: Have you see this fascinating explanation by Sir Ken Robinson of why our education system is as it is? It’s really worth a look – a very amusing 10 minutes worth but with a serious message.
Early years: valuable ends and effective means: This CentreForum report proposes that parents with young children who work 20 hours a week or more should be entitled to up to 25 hours a week of free early education. It argues that making it easier for parents to work and access high quality early education is vital because it increases family income and makes a difference to children’s early development before they start school. It also calls for higher qualification requirements for staff working with children from poorer backgrounds to help narrow the gap between them and their more affluent peers. The report says that while politicians have grasped the importance of early intervention, successive governments have been unclear about the outcomes they want to achieve.
Effective Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE 3-16) has now been published. The study investigates the impact of pre-school provision on children’s long-term learning and development. The study found that children who go to pre-school develop better literacy, behaviour and concentration as teenagers, get better GCSE results and can earn an extra £27,000 over their working lives.
Good Childhood Report 2014: This annual report, published by the Children’s Society, presents an updated picture of overall levels of well-being in the UK; analyses new data on how children’s subjective well-being varies according to individual and household characteristics; and presents findings on how children’s subjective well-being varies between countries. Key findings include: children in England rank ninth out of11 countries surveyed in terms of subjective wellbeing; children in England fare particularly poorly in terms of satisfaction with the way they look; girls tend to have lower well-being than boys; children who have fewer material resources than their peers have lower than average well-being; the recession is impacting children’s well-being; and there is a significant association between parenting behaviours and subjective well-being.
World Class: What does international evidence tell us about improving quality, access and affordability in the English childcare market: This report by the Resolution Foundation sets out a path for reform for the UK, offering the ‘best ideas’ from abroad. It describes the childcare market in England, highlighting the differences in provision across the state, private and voluntary sectors. It then goes on to look in turn at each of the levers available to government: provision, funding and regulation, drawing on international experience to identify the strengths and weaknesses of how each lever is used in England. Finally, the authors put forward a set of possible reforms to funding and regulation that together would improve quality and affordability
The Play Return: A Review of the Wider Impact of Play Initiatives (Tony Gill for the Children’s Play Policy Forum). Children’s play is of fundamental importance to the lives of children, not only in terms of their development and well-being but also their enjoyment of childhood. This document provides supporting evidence which will add to conversations around the subject of play. We hope and believe that it will also be of interest to the general public, parents, carers and teachers alike.
The practicalities of childcare: an overlooked part of the puzzle? (Report by Citizens Advice, July 2014). This report examines the practical difficulties parents face when using childcare and the impact they are having on allowing more parents to work and more children to get a good quality early education. It reveals that parents on low incomes or with unstable working hours are forced to rely on poorer quality childcare providers. Key findings include: 90% of providers required payment in advance and nearly 60% require this monthly; 75% of providers did not provide care in the evenings or at weekends; Nearly 60% of providers required a month or more notice to change or end arrangements – higher quality providers were less flexible; 24 per cent of childcare providers do not offer parents the government’s 15 hours’ free provision; 40 per cent of childcare providers do not have a space available.
Early years: valuable ends and effective means (Report by CentreForum, July 2014). This report proposes that parents with young children who work 20 hours a week or more should be entitled to up to 25 hours a week of free early education. It argues that making it easier for parents to work and access high quality early education is vital because it increases family income and makes a difference to children’s early development before they start school. It also calls for higher qualification requirements for staff working with children from poorer backgrounds to help narrow the gap between them and their more affluent peers.
The Right Start: how to support early intervention through initial contact with families (Report by Abdinasir, K. and Capron, L. for Children’s Society June 2014). Research for this report found that almost half (47%) of local authorities are failing to routinely inform children’s centres about new births in their area. A majority of local authorities that are failing to share data (60%) say they are unable to obtain the information from local health services. The failure is making it much harder for children’s centres to do their job and many vulnerable families may be unaware of the support and services available. The Children’s Society is calling on the government to make it a clear legal duty for local authorities and health services to share live birth data with children’s centres to ensure families know about and can access the vital services available.
Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE). Strand 3: Parenting services in children’s centres (Report by Maria Evangelou, et al. for Department for Education, June 2014). This evaluation report considers the effectiveness of children’s centres in England and their cost in relation to different types of services. It found that children’s centres are continuing to offer a varied range of provision, targeting all areas of parental and family needs. It advises that despite the many internal and external pressures driving the evolution of centre services, children’s centre staff create a welcoming and supportive environment for both parents and children.
Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE): the extent to which centres ‘reach’ eligible families, their neighbourhood characteristics and levels of use. This report by the DfE forms part of the national evaluation of children’s centres in England research study. The evaluation examines the management, organisation and programmes offered in the centres; it includes a longitudinal study of families and children who used these centres and a cost-benefit analysis of the programme.
Institute for Early Years. A new Institute, with the mission to drive the improvement of learning and care for babies, toddlers and young children has been launched. It aims to improve practitioners’ understanding of child development and family support and will connect experts through a global learning platform. The project has been supported by the University of Northampton, the London Early Years Foundation and Angel Solutions, the technical partner providing the technology.
Supporting early learning for children under three: research and practice. This article published in the Journal of Children’s Services selectively reviews the literature on young children’s learning at home and in early childhood settings in order to identify key care-giving practices which support the learning and development of children under three. The authors explore three key areas of practice: play-based activities and routines; support for communication and language; and opportunities to move and be physically active.
Children’s centres inspections and outcomes, 1st November, 2013 to March 2014. A new children’s centre framework was introduced on 1st April ,2013, which focuses sharply on the impact of children’s centres on targeted young children and their families, especially those that centres have identified as being in most need of intervention and support. Of the total 188 inspections, 93 inspections or 49% resulted in a judgement of good or outstanding for overall effectiveness. Of the 112 single centres inspected, 47%, were judged good or outstanding and 8% were judged inadequate. Of the 76 group centres inspected, 54% were judged good and outstanding and 9% were judged inadequate. Since the new framework was introduced, the ‘satisfactory’ judgement was replaced with ‘requires improvement’. Between 1st November, 2013 and 31st March, 2014, 42% of centres were judged as ‘requires improvement’ – 46% of single centres and 37% of group centres.
Quality and inequality: do three- and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision? This study by Sandra Mathers and Rebecca Smees from Oxford University for the Nuffield Foundation analysed data on 1,079 private, voluntary (non-profit) and independent nurseries and 169 state-maintained nursery and primary schools in England. The research team compared private and voluntary providers with and without a graduate on the staff team and found that the ‘quality gap’ between disadvantaged and more advantaged areas was much smaller in nurseries employing a graduate. See here for more information.
Early childhood assessment: observation, teacher ‘knowledge’ and the production of attainment data in early years settings(Bradbury, A. (2014), Comparative Education). This paper argues that the use of statutory assessment for 5-year-olds is unique to the UK and examines the peculiarity of the assessment system (EYFS Profile), using data from two ethnographic case studies of classrooms of four- and five-year-old children in London. The study reveals tensions between the construction of teachers’ knowledge, their ambivalence in relation to the numerical data they report, and the use of the data for school accountability purposes. The paper is available here.
Knowledge creation as an approach to facilitating evidence informed practice in early years settings (Brown, C. and Rogers, S. (2014), IoE). This paper examines the authors’ attempts to use knowledge creation activity as a way of developing evidence-informed practice amongst a learning community of 36 early years practitioners in the London Borough of Camden. Our findings would appear to suggest that knowledge creation activity provides an effective way of communicating research and keeping it top of mind although the approach is only really applicable to situations where researchers are working regularly with practitioners on areas of practice development. We suggest, however, that in school systems such as England’s, where the expectation is that schools or alliances of schools should lead their professional development activity, it is hoped that these instances will increase. Available here.
Guidance on Summer-Born Children – The government has updated guidance on school admissions for summer-born children to ensure parents have a greater say on when their child enters reception class. Some summer-born children can struggle to cope with primary school. The schools admissions guidance has been updated to end confusion over when children have to legally start school, and clarifies the difference between when a council has to provide a school place and the right of parents to choose their child’s start date. See more here.
Independent review of initial teacher training courses launched – The Secretary of State for Education has announced an independent review of the quality and effectiveness of ITT courses. It will be chaired by Andrew Carter. More information as it becomes available.
Parents’ perspectives: children’s use of technology in the early years – This report published by the National Literacy Trust presents the findings of a survey of parents of children aged three to five that explored the activities they engage in at home that support children’s language and literacy development. The findings show that technological devices such as Smartphones and tablet computers can offer a new and important route into reading for three to five-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. See here.
Complementing this report, the findings of an online survey of practitioners who work with three to five-year-olds is presented exploring how they support children’s language and communication skills. One of the main interests was to explore how often practitioners and children engage in reading-related activities when in settings, and how often they use technology, in particular touch-screen devices. The research found that children are more likely to enjoy reading if they use both books and a touch screen to look at stories, compared to books only. See here.
Case studies on the deployment of graduates to improve outcomes for children –
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has carried out a Department for Education grant funded project to identify best practice models in the deployment of graduates in early years education settings. Thirteen case studies have been developed, which represent a range of providers from private, voluntary and independent settings and maintained schools and academies. The case studies show how the settings are deploying their graduates in a range of ways to improve outcomes for children. See here.
The revised EYFS: – You can access it here.
Measuring what matters: a guide for children’s centres – Roberts, J., Donkin, A. and Pillas, D. (2014) for UCL Institute of Health Equity. Building on the 2012 report ‘An equal start: improving outcomes in children’s centres’, this report proposes a new evidence and measurement framework for children’s centres to demonstrate outcomes for children and families. Headline areas of focus within the framework are effective outreach, children developing well and positive parenting. See here.
Baby bonds: parenting, attachment and a secure base for children – Moullin, S., Waldfogel, J. and Washbrook, E. (2014) for the Sutton Trust. This review of international studies of attachment found that strong emotional bonds between parents and children are vital to ensure proper development in the first few years of life. The review recommends that parents at risk should receive help in the form of programmes promoting good parenting skills. The study also notes that working mothers or the use of alternative care did not increase the risk of an insecure attachment. See here.
Early education and childcare: Research priorities and questions (DfES, 2014).This paper is one of a series of 15 which aims to promote the importance of robust quantitative evidence to increase understanding of ‘what works’ in education and children’s services; identify evidence gaps; initiate collaboration with the research community; and support work that helps understand and tackle the barriers to making evidence accessible to practitioners. In future, the development and use of evidence should be increasingly driven and owned by the research community, sector bodies and practitioners. Found here.
Young children’s ‘working theories’: building and connecting understandings (Hedges, H. (2014) Young children’s ‘working theories’: building and connecting understandings. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12(1): 35-49. Young children are keenly motivated to inquire into and make meaning about their worlds. This article discusses working theories, one of two indicative learning outcomes of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. The concept of working theories is proposed as a way children connect, edit, extend and deal with new or discrepant pieces of knowledge in endeavours to build their understandings. Implications for early childhood teachers’ knowledge and practice and future research are described. Found here.
PLA survey on early years policy. The Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) has launched a survey on early years policy. The ‘Early years agenda’ survey covers five policy areas: funding, qualifications, schools, childminder agencies and Ofsted. To participate in the survey, visit the PLA website. Found here.
Peer play interactions and learning for low-income pre-school children: the moderating role of classroom quality (Bulotsky-Shearer, J. et al (2014). Peer play interactions and learning for low-income pre-school children: the moderating role of classroom quality. Early Education and Development, Online first.) This study examines the association between interactive peer play and academic skills and classroom quality in Head Start programs. Findings from multilevel models indicated that disruptive and disconnected peer play behaviours early in the pre-school year were associated with lower literacy and language skills regardless of classroom quality. However, interactive peer play early in the year was associated with higher mathematics outcomes when children were enrolled in classrooms characterized by high instructional support. Implications for early childhood research, practice, and policy are discussed. Found here.
Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet, England, 2014. This Health and Social Care Information Centre data includes statistics on overweight and obesity and physical activity levels among children aged 2-15, and the diet of children aged 18 months to 3 years and 4 to 10 years. Found here.
The Twoness of Twos: Leadership for Two Year Olds (O’Sullivan, J. and Chambers, S. (2014) London Early Years Foundation). This report about leadership was commissioned to look at how two year olds accessing childcare through the government’s Two-Year-Offer can be assured of receiving consistently high quality and care experiences. The report intends to inform those responsible for policy decisions at central and local level as well as those leading services and practice. It can be found at here.
Cuts to Early Years services: In an open letter, leading early years experts have called for local authorities to review whether cuts to early years are jeopardising the future of the youngest and most vulnerable children in society through threats to the quality and availability of early childhood education and care. The signatories raise concerns that cutbacks to children’s centre provision are threatening the concept of universal access for families with young children, with 65% of children’s centres having seen cuts to their budgets. See ECU Bulletin, 2014 (4) 27 The letter also echoes recent concerns from the Education Select Committee, that numbers of maintained nursery schools are being gradually eroded across the country to be found at here.
What are children’s centres for? This Barnardo’s report asserts that children’s centres in England lack a unifying mission and calls for them to be clearly focused on early help for parents of young children. The report argues that the lack of consistency and quality of children’s centres across the country makes effective service provision and accountability impossible. Rallings, J. (2014) What are children’s centres for? Barnardo’s, February 2014, found here.
The nursery sector in England: This report into the findings of the National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) latest ‘Nursery Survey’ provides an insight into the current state of the nursery sector and highlights issues faced by nurseries. Insight Report: the nursery sector in England, February 2014. National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), February 2014., found here.
Childmind the gap: reforming childcare to support mothers into work: This Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report explores the factors behind maternal employment in the UK, and especially the pivotal role of affordable, accessible childcare in supporting mothers who want to work. It advises that universal affordable childcare could save the taxpayer up to £1.5bn a year by allowing more mothers to go back to work. Thompson, S. and Ben-Galim, D. Childmind the gap: reforming childcare to support mothers into work. Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), 21 February 2014, found here.
The regulation of childcare: Consultation report and government response, February, 2014). The government has now published the result of this consultation which can be found here. It is sad to see yet again, how relatively few responses were sent and how the choice of questions greatly influences the responses.
£755 million to double free childcare offer for 2-year-olds Councils are to receive £755 million of Government funding to provide 15 hours a week of free childcare for the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds from September 2014. The money will double the number of children eligible for free early learning from 130,000 children to over 260,000 – around 40% of 2-year-olds, found here.
Nick Clegg announces funding for free school meals for infants The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced that from September 2014 every child in reception, years 1 and 2 in state-funded schools will be entitled to a free school lunch. To ensure schools have the capacity to provide the extra meals the Government is providing £150 million to help schools expand their kitchen and dining facilities, found here.
Does play promote self-regulation in children? (E. Savina, 2014) Does play promote self-regulation in children? Early Child Development and Care, Online First). This theoretical paper discusses the role of pretend play and games with rules in fostering children’s self-regulation. It proposes that, in play, children learn to inhibit their impulsive behaviour and follow rules which transform their behaviour to mediated and voluntary. Second, play liberates children from situational constraints as children begin to act upon the meanings of objects as opposed to their immediate motivational valence. Third, children develop internal representations which guide their behaviour. Finally, play promotes verbal self-regulation. The current status of play and implications for practice are discussed, found here.
Sound foundations? (S. Mathers et al. (2014) Sound foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality of early childhood education and care for children under three: implications for policy and practice. University of Oxford for the Sutton Trust).This report advises that the government should delay expanding free nursery provision for disadvantaged two year-olds until it can guarantee that they all have access to good quality places. New research by early years experts at Oxford University concludes that clear developmental benefits for the poorest children require good quality provision which is not yet available for all 92,000 two year-olds taking up places at the moment. The report finds that current levels of quality may not be adequate to deliver the government’s planned expansion successfully and it argues for improvements to the qualifications and training of early years workers, and other changes to boost the language and social development of poorer children, found here.
Young children’s ‘working theories’: building and connecting understandings (H. Hedges, 2014) Young children’s ‘working theories’: building and connecting understandings. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12(1): 35-49). Young children are keenly motivated to inquire into and make meaning about their worlds. This article discusses ‘working theories’, one of two indicative learning outcomes of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. Working theories occur as children attempt to find connections between their experiences and understandings to make sense of their worlds. The article proffers several sociocultural theoretical bases for understanding and developing this under-explored construct. Implications for early childhood teachers’ knowledge and practice and future research are described, found here.
To read or not to read: decoding synthetic phonics (A. Davis, 2013) To read or not to read: decoding synthetic phonics. Impact: Philosophical Perspectives on Education Policy, 20 (1–38). In England, current government policy on children’s reading is focused on the delivery of a pure and exclusive form of synthetic phonics, where letter sounds are learned and blended in order to ‘read’ text. A universally imposed phonics ‘check’ is taken by all five year olds and the results are widely reported. In this paper, it is argued that there is a basic problem with the claim that systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective way of teaching children to read, found here.
Maths NC, Early years: The proposed new National Curriculum for Maths, has prompted Rebecca Hanson to write a report, challenging the government in relation to the early years contents and the use of the Singapore NC as a guide (given how well Singapore does on international comparisons). It makes interesting reading and it would be good to hear your comments on Rebecca’s review.
The 1001 Critical Days Report, to be found here. This is a cross-party manifesto (supported by the Wave Trust and the NSPCC) emphasizing the importance of the conception to two-year old period in a child’s life. ‘By the 1001st day, the brain has reached 80% of its adult weight … From birth to age 18 months, connections in the brain are created at a rate of one million per second! The manifesto also emphasized the distortions created by toxic stress and the the need for secure attachment to a parent/carer free from abuse or neglect. It makes powerful reading.
Early Years Professionals reflect upon their leadership of practice role: journal article (Elaine Hallet. ‘We all share a common vision and passion’: Early Years Professionals reflect upon their leadership of practice role. Journal of Early Childhood Research, Online first, 14 August, 2013). The leadership of practice role is central to raising the quality of early years provision and practice. This study of the leadership role of the EYP, found that Early Years Professionals had a defined role as Leaders of Learning, a specialist group within the early years workforce.
Lottery gives £5m to support vulnerable under-fours The Big Lottery Fund has distributed a total of £5m to charities in fifteen areas of England as part of a bid to improve the life chances of vulnerable under-fours. The money is part of the lottery’s ‘A Better Start’ initiative and will be used by the fifteen areas to devise long-term plans for supporting parents with children from pregnancy to three years old. See here.
Using action research to support quality early years practice (Josephine Bleach, 2013, Using action research to support quality early years practice. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(3): 370-379. See here. This article examines the effectiveness of action research as a continuous professional development (CPD) tool. Action research supported the implementation of change by helping participants develop the skills needed, both individually and collectively, to deliver outcomes they really cared about.
Literacy development amongst children in England (Chris Taylor Gareth Rees and Rhys Davies, 2013, Devolution and geographies of education: the use of the Millennium Cohort Study for ‘home international’ comparisons across the UK. Comparative Education, 49(3): 290-316) found here. This research has revealed that from the age of three, children in England make faster progress in literacy than those in both Wales and Scotland. The researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking around 19,000 children, to compare reading and literacy levels between England, Wales and Scotland at ages three, five and seven.
Greater Expectations: raising aspirations for our children – NCB report (Greater Expectations: raising aspirations for our children. National Children’s Bureau (NCB, 2013). This report finds that significantly more children now (since 1973) grow up in poverty – 3.5 million (27%) compared to 2 million (15%) then. Recommendations include: the creation of a Children and Young People’s Board with full ministerial representation to develop and implement a cross-government strategy for reducing inequality and disadvantage; and the establishment by parliament and civil society of a common set of indicators that are used as a matrix to hold government to account for what it is doing to address the inequalities and disadvantage that children face. See here.
- Investigating the role of language in children’s early educational outcomes
- Rolling out free early education for disadvantaged two year olds: an implementation study for local authorities and providers
- Performing against the odds: developmental trajectories of children in the EPPSE 3-16 study
- Save The Children: State of the World’s Mothers Report 2011 (May 2011)
- The Early Years: Foundations for life health and learning (April 2011)
- The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Review: Report on the Evidence (March 2011)
- Australian Early Years Learning Framework: Belonging, Being and Becoming (February 2011)
- Children’s experiences of the Early Years Foundation Stage (December 2010)
- Sizing up: a comparative study of childcare policies within the four regions of the UK (November 2010)
- Grasping the Nettle: early intervention for children, families and communities (October 2010)
- The Early Years Parent Review 2009 (October 2010)
- Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology
- A Bit Rich: Calculating the real value to society of different professions (Dec. 2009)
- Learning, Playing and Interacting: Good practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage. London: DCFS/QCDA (Dec. 2009)
- UNICEF Positive indicators of child well-being: a conceptual framework, measures and methodological issues. (Dec. 2009)
- DCSF Early Years Learning and Development – Literature Review. (Dec. 2009)
- DCSF The Children’s Plan Two Years On: a progress report. (Dec. 2009)
- There will also be regional conferences for leaders/managers starting in early November, at which they will hear about and debate the implications of the final report with the Review team (see here). (Nov. 2009)
- The Review team, in conjunction with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the RSA, organised a public event. Find out more here (Oct. 2009)
- THE INDEPENDENT CAMBRIDGE PRIMARY REVIEW: Those of you who have been following this independent primary review, will be please to know that its final report is now available entitled: Children, their World, their Education: Final Report and Recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, published by Routledge. The 600+ pages cover in detail the Review’s ten major themes and the report ends with a set of formal conclusions and recommendations for future policy and practice (Sep. 2009)
- Crisis in the Kindergarten – Why Children Need to play in school by Alliance for Childhood (Apr. 2009)
- A Children’s Environment and Health Strategy for the United Kingdom (Mar. 2009)
- House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee:
National Curriculum – Fourth Report of Session 2008-09 (Mar. 2009)
- A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age, by The Children’s Society
- Towards a New Primary Curriculum, by the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum
- Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare: Building on the 10-Year Strategy (Feb. 2009)
- Every Child a Talker (Feb. 2009)
- The Children’s Plan: One Year On, by the Department for Children, Schools and Families
- The Children’s Plan:
Building brighter futures, by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (Jan. 2008)
- OfSTED Annual Report, by the Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert (Dec. 2008)
- Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum Interim report, by the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum (Dec. 2008)
- Primary schools: the professional environment, by Liz Jones, Andy Pickard and Ian Stronach, Manchester Metropolitan University, Primary Review Research Survey 6/2. (Apr. 2008)
- Primary teachers: initial teacher education, continuing professional development and school leadership development, by Olwen McNamara and Rosemary Webb, Manchester University, and Mark Brundrett, Liverpool John Moores University, Primary Review Research Survey 6/3.(Apr. 2008)
- Primary workforce management and reform, by Hilary Burgess, The Open University, Primary Review Research Survey 6/4. (Apr. 2008)
- For Love or Money: Pay, progression and professionalisation in the ‘early years’ workforce by Graeme Cooke and Kayte Lawton for IPPR. (Apr. 2008)
- The Interim Report from the Williams Mathematics Review (Early Years and Primary) (Apr. 2008)
- Further reports from the Primary Review (Feb. 2008)
The Structure and Content of English Primary Education: international perspectives
Research Survey 9/1: The Structure of Primary Education: England and other countries (Anna Riggall and Caroline Sharp)
Research Survey 3/1: Primary Curriculum and Assessment: England and other countries (Kathy Hall and Kamil Øzerk)
Research Survey 3/2: The Trajectory and Impact of National Reform: curriculum and assessment in English primary schools
Research Survey 3/3: Primary Curriculum Futures (James Conroy, Moira Hulme and Ian Menter)
ii) Research Survey 4/3: Quality Assurance in English Primary Education
iii) Research Survey 10/1: The Funding of English Primary Education
iv) Research Survey 10/2: The Governance and Administration of English Primary Education
- Estelle Morris on inequalitites (Mar. 2008)
- Children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson, on childhood (Mar. 2008)
- Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Publications (Jan. 2008)
- British children’s TV viewing habits (Jan. 2008)
- The Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (Jan. 2008)
- ‘Play should be seen and heard’ (Jan. 2008)
- ‘The Children’s Plan’ (Dec. 2007)
- Primary Review: Children’s Cognitive Development and Learning (briefing paper: Dec. 2007)
- ‘Children and Young People’ Final Report: National Children’s Bureau (Nov. 2007)
- Ofsted Annual Report? (Oct. 2007)
- Reception year teachers most important for primary education (Sept. 2007)
- Early Years Initiatives yet to make impact (Aug. 2007)