Parents can boost preschool children’s progress by five months, toolkit reveals

early years

Children whose parents take an active interest in their education from an early age are likely to make more progress than their peers, according to a new report.

An early years toolkit published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) reveals that a child’s progress can be boosted by five months over a year if their parents get involved in their education – by reading and talking with them at home, for example.

The toolkit analyses evidence about methods of boosting achievement among young children in a bid to help nurseries and preschools improve the learning of disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds.

A previous study by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust found that the poorest children can be up to 19 months behind their wealthier classmates when they start school at age 5.

The toolkit brings together findings from more than 1,600 studies on 12 topics, including communication and language, self-regulation strategies and extra hours.

Actively engaging parents in supporting their preschool children’s learning ranges from running parent workshops to intensive family support, and has consistently been associated with future academic success, the report says.

Within nurseries, a focus on spoken language, such as reading to young children and talking to them about the stories they read, has also been found to improve progress by five months over a year. Helping children to learn self-regulation strategies – by encouraging them to talk about what they want to do and how they will go about it, for example – seems to have an even greater impact, of seven months’ progress over a year. However, approaches like this have not been as thoroughly researched as communication programmes.

In contrast, the toolkit points out that in two other areas – starting school at an earlier age and attending for the full school day – the potential positive impacts have not yet been proved. It also notes that both these approaches are expensive.

EEF chief executive Kevan Collins 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, but summarises research from England and around the world to provide information about the cost, evidence strength and average impact of a wide variety of approaches.”

Steve Higgins, professor of education at Durham University, which developed the toolkit, 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 to bridge the divide between research and practice and leads to more effective early years provision for all children.”

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