The costs and benefits of education interventions

A new series of publications aims to provide independent investment advice for children’s services. Launched last Friday Investing in Children, from the Social Research Unit at Dartington, will publish reports on the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of programmes and approaches. The reports look at the financial costs of particular interventions, the financial benefits to taxpayers and participants, and the risk that an approach might not be successful. The first two reports look at interventions for early years and education, and youth justice. In the early years and education report, programmes rated include Reading Recovery, Success for All and Life Skills Training.

Source: Investing in Children

Key components of successful coaching

Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social Skill Promotion) is a large-scale, US national research demonstration to test a one-year programme to improve pre-kindergarteners’ (age 4–5) social and emotional readiness for school. To facilitate the delivery of the programme, teachers attended training workshops and worked with coaches throughout the school year. In this report from MDRC, researchers present lessons learned from Head Start CARES about coaching social-emotional curricula in a large and complex early childhood education system. Key findings include:

  • Successful coaches exhibited a combination of skills in three important areas: knowledge of the programme, general coaching and consultation skills, and knowledge of and experience in early childhood development and/or teaching.
  • Incorporating coaching into day-to-day practices requires flexibility and is necessary for implementation success.
  • Site-level administrators must be actively engaged in supporting and supervising coaching as well as general implementation processes.

Source: Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development: Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings (2012), MDRC

Invest early, but use evidence

Researchers from the NFER have been looking at early intervention, that is, approaches delivered “early in the life of a problem, or when children are younger”. This study, which is the fourth in a series for the Local Government Association, found that such approaches can have greater benefits in the long term and therefore be more cost effective.

But it highlighted the need for programmes to be evidence-based, and for these to be delivered with fidelity to the programme’s design. The authors emphasise that more work is needed to improve the evidence that is available, especially information about cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Department for Education has announced the next steps in the creation of the Early Intervention Foundation, which will provide advice and support on issues relating to early intervention.

Source: Early intervention: informing local practise (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research

Educational television can support early literacy

This study from Early Childhood Research Quarterly tested whether a literacy curriculum supplement integrated with media can improve literacy outcomes for young children. The curriculum supplement incorporated video clips from programmes such as Sesame Street as well as online games, hands-on activities and professional development.

Findings showed that the supplement had positive impacts on children’s ability to recognise letters, sounds of letters and initial sounds of words, and children’s concepts of story and print.

Source: Supplementing literacy instruction with a media-rich intervention: Results of a randomized controlled trial (2012), Early Childhood Research Quarterly,27(1)

UK disappoints on social mobility

A report by the Sutton Trust, which compared social mobility in several countries, found that the UK performs poorly.

The key findings of the report were that:

  • Gaps in school readiness in England between disadvantaged children and their counterparts were wider than in similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, but narrower than the United States.
  • Formal preschool education can have lasting effects in reducing the educational gap between high and low income children.
  • Disparities in early child outcomes persist into adolescence.
  • Unlike other countries, the achievement gap in England actually widens in secondary school.
  • None of the countries in the study reduce the disparity as children age.

The report concludes that addressing the social stratification in secondary schools remains one of the key challenges for improving social mobility in the UK.

Source: Latest research report: what prospects for mobility in the UK? A cross-national study of educational inequalities and their implications for future education and earnings mobility (2011), Sutton Trust

Developing a business case for early interventions

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) has published a guide to developing a business case for early interventions (the practices and programmes that help to give children aged 0–3 the social and emotional foundations they need). Commissioned by the Local Government Association, the guidance includes:

  • How to make a business case for early interventions
  • How to make an economic case for early interventions
  • The key considerations in evaluating the value for money of early interventions.

Source: Developing a business case for early interventions and evaluating their value for money (2011), National Foundation for Educational Research