Nursery children do better at school
CHILDREN whose parents enrol them in nursery classes do better at primary school than those who stay at home, according to research published yesterday.
Academics from London and Oxford looked at the attainment levels of 3,100 seven-year-olds and concluded that starting education earlier improved intellectual development.
The results found those with pre-school education did better in maths and English compared with those who stayed at home, and improved results both for richer and poorer children.
But they found children from unskilled or semi-skilled families would fail to reach expected attainment levels in reading and writing without pre-school education.
Professor Kathy Sylva from Oxford University said: "The impact of coming from a poor family when you are three is greater on your developmental profile than it is when you are five. It indicates to us that the pre-school has reduced bad effects on children’s developmental profile."
Since 2002, all Scottish children aged three and four have been entitled to free pre-school education under a scheme launched by the Scottish Executive.
A spokeswoman said: "It is up to parents whether they want to take up these places."
Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), which campaigned in the 1990s for local authorities to provide nursery education for pre-school children, yesterday gave a cautious welcome to the research findings.
She said: "The trouble with research like this is it can be pretty crude. There is other research which has established that the optimum for youngsters is half a day of nursery education a week for a year before they go to school.
"I don’t know whether there’s enough research to say whether extra nursery education is beneficial or detrimental."
The research was carried out by a team from the Institute of Education and Birkbeck College, University of London and University of Oxford for the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education study.
They assessed the educational performance of 2,800 youngsters who had received some kind of pre-school education and compared it to that of 300 children who had not.
All of the children involved in the research were based in England.
The researchers found that pre-school education, whether from nursery classes or schools, playgroups, private day nurseries, local authority day-care centres or fully integrated centres, could even reduce the risk of a child developing educational needs and also lowered anti-social behaviour in children.
Margaret Hodge, the children’s minister in England, said parents who agonise about sending their offspring to nursery should take heart from the research findings.
And she said she was pleased that the research proved that pre-school education was of particular benefit to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Ms Hodge said: "There has been a lot of concern expressed by parents, raised by research, as to whether it is damaging to have your children in pre-school.
"I think, I hope, this research today gives comfort to parents who are always worrying about whether they are doing the best for their children and how to balance work responsibilities with care at home.
"Pre-school on the whole is a really good thing. It is not a substitute for good quality parenting in the home but certainly it does not have the damaging consequences that have been suggested by some commentators and researchers based on questionable evidence."
Ms Hodge added: "I think this exciting new evidence shows that high quality pre-school experiences have lasting effects and they continue to make a real difference to children’s attainment and social development throughout primary school.
"All children gain, but for children from disadvantaged backgrounds the gain they get will set them up to achieve well at school."
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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