New programme to monitor two-year-olds' progress

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The progress and outcomes of funded two-year-olds are to be tracked from point of entry to the end of Reception in a new project backed by funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

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Education charity Achievement for All has received a grant of £835,000 to monitor the impact of its Achieving Early programme in at least 60 settings across the country following a successful pilot last year.

The programme - which won an Inclusive Practice award at the Nursery World Awards in 2015 - aims to support teachers in closing the gap between children from areas of high deprivation and their peers from high income families and ensure a greater proportion meet and even exceed age-related expectations of them. It helps to increase professional competence, so practitioners are better able to meet the needs of vulnerable children.

The four-and-a-half-year Tracking for Success project will start in January and initially focus on the provision and practice for two terms before tracking and monitoring the two-year-olds who enter the settings in September 2017 until the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Data is to be evaluated by Plymouth University and compared to national indicators.

Maureen Hunt, the programme lead, said, ‘This is a ground-breaking project as it will be the first time we will be able to track the progress of a cohort of children from different parts of the country all the way to the end of Reception, to assess what the impact has been.

‘Children who have experienced two to three years of high-quality childcare by the time they are five years old are eight months ahead in their literacy development compared to those who don’t attend pre-school. The difficulty is that the quality of early years settings is often weakest in the areas of high deprivation, compounding the effect of disadvantage.

‘Through Achieving Early we intend to support continuous improvement to the quality of early years provision in disadvantaged areas, helping to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers. We are looking to partner with local authorities in order to target support to children in areas of high deprivation and measure the impact. We believe this will raise the quality of provision for two-year-olds significantly in the long term, improving the outcomes for the children.’

Significant results were recorded during the Achieving Early pilot, which tracked the progress of 388 children in 2013-2015 who were vulnerable to poor outcomes. The proportion of children reaching an age-appropriate level in key areas, including communication and emotional development, rose from 23 per cent to 73 per cent.

The programme also contributed to raising Ofsted outcomes for settings involved. Out of the 33 settings inspected during the two years the number of Outstanding settings rose from two to eight. Two of these settings were previously graded as Satisfactory or Requires Improvement. The number of Good settings increased from 17 to 29, while the number previously rated Inadequate dropped from five to none.

  • Local Authorities wishing to get involved in the project, or settings who would like more information can contact Maureen Hunt direct at Maureen.Hunt@afaeducation.org
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