Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageIt may be costed, but that doesn't mean it will work.Hannah McKay/PA

Welcome to The Conversation’s Manifesto Check, where academics from across the UK subject each party’s manifesto to unbiased, expert scrutiny. The result will be a complete guide to the factual accuracy and plausibility of policies relating to health, education, the economy, and more, right across the political spectrum. Here, our expert examines the Labour Party’s early years policyand finds it lacking.

Labour’s 2015 manifesto aims to improve life for children and it suggests that one effective means of achieving that aim is to invest in early years’ provision.

The claim is that a child’s language development at the age of two is a strong predictor of reading ability in primary school and later attainment. The evidence for this checks out: early language development is indeed an important precursor to reading and later attainment. Take, for example, vocabulary. At around the age of 18 months, young children’s vocabulary begins to expand rapidly and it is estimated that they learn words at a rate of one every two waking hours; a trend that will continue to adolescence.

Sure Start

Labour says it will “restore the role of Sure Start centres as family hubs”. A recent report from the OECD highlighted the link between young children’s early personal, social and emotional development and later academic attainment. It makes sense to provide the best possible care and educational opportunities in the early years of children’s lives, but do Sure Start centres represent the most effective method? And are they likely to contribute to closing the attainment gap seen between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more affluent environments?

Let’s take a look at recent experience. Following their election in 1997, Labour pledged to improve services, including educational provision, with the aim of reducing the impact of poverty and social deprivation in England. The Sure Start initiative was introduced.

The National Evaluation of Sure Start team did find some positive impacts on a range of factors including three-year-olds' personal and social development, but there has been criticism of the initiative. Early childhood education experts have stated that:

These interventions have been undertaken in a piecemeal fashion and so far have had only a very partial impact in breaking the link between poverty and poor educational attainment.

In 2011, I analysed the early reading and mathematics development of children starting school between 2001 and 2009, a period that included the introduction and embedding of Sure Start local programmes, and concluded that there were no significant changes.

More recently, my colleagues and I analysed data for groups of children starting school between 2000 and 2006, following them up to the end of primary schools. We concluded:

The gap appears to remain consistent and overall, there is little evidence to suggest that it is closing over time for either Maths or English. On average, children who are entitled to free school meals start school with lower scores in reading and mathematics than their peers and that this trend persists to the end of primary school.

Academics have warned that while interventions might appear to be promising when trialled in optimum environments, it is difficult to bring about effective change when they are scaled up to community-based programmes.

If Labour is to bring about positive change through a revival of Sure Start, serious consideration needs to be taken of the programmes that the centres provide and the strategies to attract the families in most need of the facilities rather than continue to replicate a system that doesn’t have good evidence of impact. A crucial element of success is a high quality, well-planned evaluation programme so that provision can be continuously monitored and improved.

Pupil premium

In education policies released before the full manifesto, Labour has also pledged to continue the early years pupil premium “working with early years settings to ensure it is used effectively” with the aim of helping all children, whatever their background, to be fluent readers by the age of 11.

This should surely be a popular policy but, again, research has shown that it is difficult to raise standards. For example, we reviewed many studies and found that the reading standards of children aged 11 remained almost static over a period of more than 50 years from the 1950s up to when out review was published in 2007.

The Pupil Premium Toolkit, published by the Education Endowment Foundation, reviews the effectiveness of a wide range of educational interventions and provides a really useful evidence base for planning future improvements to education system but we still need to be wary. Small-scale research studies often have a much bigger impact than when a programme is scaled up. Again I would strongly recommend evaluation of impact be built in from the outset rather than spending money and finding out too late that nothing has changed.

Christine Merrell receives funding from Esme Fairbairn Foundation. For the research investigating standards over time in reading and mathematics by Tymms and Merrell in 2007, which was published as part of the Cambridge Primary Review, the authors received an honorarium of £1,000, which was paid to the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/manifesto-check-no-evidence-that-labour-early-years-policy-will-close-education-gap-40101

How to know if your online shopping habit is a problem — and what to do if it is

arrow_forward

'Finding Freedom': the new Harry and Meghan book is the latest, risky move in a royal PR war

arrow_forward

Planning Makes for a Stress-Free Move

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

What to Expect from Your NDIS Verification & Certification Audit

The National Disability Insurance Agency administers NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) in Australia. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission governs it. As a welfare support scheme of...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

Why You May Need A Tower Scaffold Hire

When constructing a building, or even a multilevel structure, you must use a tower scaffold to get you into position. What is unique about this type of scaffolding is that you can build it highe...

News Company - avatar News Company

20 year old Aussie marketing genius helping billion dollar household brands

Australian digital marketing agency, Co Media, founded by 20 year old marketing genius Lucas Cook, is making its mark on the world stage by gaining a number of high profile clients and quickly b...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion