Reviewing the evidence on special education interventions

The goal of this report from Topics in Early Childhood Special Education was to synthesise the available research evidence on responsive interaction intervention (RII) for children with or at risk for developmental delays. RII is a naturalistic intervention approach to promote caregivers’ responsiveness to their children’s behaviours with the ultimate aim of improving the children’s emotional, language, and cognitive development.

Through a search of articles from 1990 to 2010, the authors identified 26 studies (31 articles) employing group experimental or quasi-experimental designs that met the inclusion criteria for the synthesis. Strategies reviewed included teaching the caregiver to increase communicative responsiveness to the child’s behaviours (eg, imitating the child’s utterances, providing linguistic mapping) and being emotionally responsive to the child’s behaviour (eg, acknowledging the child’s signals, providing contingent responsiveness with warm and sensitive behaviours).

Overall, the results of the reviewed studies indicated that implementation of RII resulted in significant positive changes in adults’ responsiveness to their children, and children’s emotional and social-communicative skills. Although the most frequently reported child outcomes were in the social-communication domain (eg, expressive and receptive communication skills), the most consistently significant positive outcomes for parent and child outcomes were in the emotional domain (eg, secure attachment, self-soothing).

Source: Responsive Interaction Interventions for Children With or at Risk for Developmental Delays: A Research Synthesis (2013), Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(1).

Early years pilot shows few benefits for five-year-olds

A new study of the Early Education Pilot for two-year-old children has shown that overall it did not lead to improvement by age five.

The Early Education Pilot provided 7.5 hours of preschool education each week to more than 13,500 two-year-olds between 2006 and 2008. A previous study had shown that, compared with a comparison group, it did not improve the cognitive and social development of the children unless they were in better-quality settings. This new study supports that conclusion. Overall, the children scored no better than their peers in the Early Years Foundation Stage assessments at age four to five. However, although the numbers were small, and therefore not statistically significant, those children who attended higher-quality settings again scored better than those who were in low- or adequate-quality settings.

From September 2013, 130,000 two-year-olds from lower income families will be able to access 15 hours of early education a week, rising to 260,000 two-year-olds in England from September 2014. However, the terms of this new funding are not directly comparable with the Early Education Pilot.

Source: The Early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children: Age Five Follow-up (2013), Department for Education.

Qualifications are the key to better early years education

Providing staff with the right skills is essential for ensuring better quality early years education. Professor Cathy Nutbrown has published her final independent report on early education and childcare qualifications Foundations for Quality, which shows that high quality early years provision narrows the gap between disadvantaged children and others, and that staff qualifications improve quality.

A large-scale public consultation was conducted to gather evidence, and an interim report was released in March 2012. In this final report, Professor Nutbrown has set out 19 recommendations to improve the quality of education in the early years sector. These include, mentoring and support for newly-qualified staff, improving qualifications to make them more rigorous and with a stronger focus on child development, and that the government should not impose a licensing system for the sector at this stage.

The government will now consider Professor Nutbrown’s report in detail before responding later in the year.

Source: Foundations for quality: The independent review of early education and childcare qualifications – Final Report (2012), Nutbrown Review