New toolkit evaluates early years strategies

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Encouraging parents to read with their child can boost their development by as much as five months, while the benefits of increasing hours to a full-day at nursery are not conclusive.


Parents who are actively involved in their child's learning can increase their progress by five months

The findings come from a new early years toolkit from the Education Endowment Foundation, which assesses the effectiveness and cost of different learning strategies, by weighing up the findings of educational research.

Its aim is to provide guidance for early years professionals on how to use their resources to improve the learning of disadvantaged children, and also estimates the cost of implementing each strategy in a group of 25 children from ‘very low’ – less than £80 per child a year, to ‘very high’, more than £1,200 per child.

The toolkit has been produced with academics from the School of Education at Durham University, led by Professor Steve Higgins.

Self-regulation strategies to help children manage their own behaviour and learning were found to have a particularly positive effect on children’s development, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The evidence suggests that teaching children to self-regulate by, for example, improving their ability to plan and review their progress, is likely to have a lasting positive effect on children’s later learning at school, as well as on behaviour and persistence.

Improving a child’s self-regulation could lead to an average impact of seven extra months’ progress, the researchers said.

This is more effective for example than increasing a child’s hours in nursery from a half-day to a full-day, with findings from studies ‘mixed’.

The report says, ‘It is not possible to tell from existing evidence whether providing extra hours is a more promising strategy for three-year-olds or four-year-olds.’

The toolkit covers 12 topics and summarises research from 1,600 studies.

It includes communication and language, earlier starting age in early years education, early literacy, early numeracy, digital technology, extra hours, parental engagement, physical development, physical environment, play-based learning, and self-regulation strategies.

Dr Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said, ‘We hope that the Early Years Toolkit can be a starting point for evidence-informed decision-making in the early years. It doesn’t attempt to tell people what to do it summarises research from England and around the world to provide information about the cost, evidence strength and average impact about a wide variety of approaches.’

The new resource will be launched by Dr Collins at 4Children’s Early Years Matters conference in London later today.

Steve Higgins, Professor of Education at Durham University, said, ‘We think evidence can help early years professionals with the important decisions they make every day, but know that it is often locked away in journals, or written in inaccessible jargon. We hope that the Early Years Toolkit helps bridge the divide between research and practice and leads to more effective early years provision for all children.’

  • Download the Early Years Toolkit here

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