Quality matters for preschool

A new report from The Sutton Trust and Oxford University reviews the evidence on early childhood education and care for children under three, and finds that developmental benefits will only be achieved if children are able to attend good-quality preschool. The findings, which draw on research from the UK, US, and Australia on both centre-based care and home-based care provided by childminders, identify four key dimensions of good-quality pedagogy for all children under three:

  • Stable relationships and interactions with sensitive and responsive adults;
  • A focus on play-based activities and routines which allow children to take the lead in their own learning;
  • Support for communication and language; and
  • Opportunities to move and be physically active.

The report provides recommendations for policy and practice, which focus in particular on helping children from poorer backgrounds overcome early disadvantage. Several of these relate to the “quality” of staff. For example, recommendations include increasing pay rates contingent upon improved qualifications, and ensuring that practitioners have access to continuing professional development.

The authors also recommend retaining an overall ratio of 1:4 for group-care settings and 1:3 for home settings, working to ensure a good social mix in early years settings so that lower-income children mix with other children, and having an appropriate physical environment (eg, stimulating and appropriate resources; space for eating, sleeping, and physical activity; and small group sizes appropriate for age/stage).

Source: Sound Foundations. A Review of the Research Evidence on Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care for Children Under Three: Implications for Policy and Practice (2014), The Sutton Trust and Oxford University.

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