Parents who engage with their child’s learning from an early age can boost progress by 5 months

Parents who are actively involved in their child’s learning and development before they start school can boost their progress by 5 months, according to evidence summarised in the Early Years Toolkit, a new resource launched by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today.

The Toolkit, developed by Durham University, states that there is ‘clear evidence’ that engaging parents with their children’s learning and development in the early years is valuable and will likely have a positive effect on later academic success. Whist the impact of different parental engagement approaches will vary, effective strategies can be as simple as encouraging parents to read with their child at home, or as structured as providing training in parenting skills or adult literacy support.

Parental engagement is one of 12 topics covered in the Early Years Toolkit, an accessible summary of evidence aims to help nurseries and pre-schools get the most out of their resources, including the Early Years Pupil Premium, and improve the learning of three and four year olds from disadvantaged homes. Government statistics found that less than 50% of children from low income families had achieved a ‘good level of development’ by age 5 - the Toolkit aims to help early years professionals address this.

Of the strategies covered by the Toolkit, self-regulation is shown to have a particularly positive average effect on children’s progress. The evidence suggests that teaching children to self-regulate, for example by improving their capacity to plan and review their progress, can increase learning by seven additional months on average. Moreover, helping children to develop this in the early years can benefit reading skills, maths and problem-solving and is likely to have a lasting positive impact on later learning.

However, nurseries and pre-schools should be wary of assuming a simple link between extra hours of education and increased learning. The evidence in the Toolkit suggests that the high-costs associated with providing a full-day of early years education over a half-day may indicate that improving the quality of provision is a better bet than extending the length of time in nursery or reception.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“Our Teaching and Learning Toolkit is now used by nearly half of all school leaders. I hope this new Early Years toolkit will have an equally strong impact with early years teachers and staff and help them to spend money on disadvantaged pupils in the most cost-effective way.”

Dr Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“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 it summarises research from England and around the world to provide information about the cost, evidence strength and average impact about a wide variety of approaches.”

Steve Higgins, Professor of Education at Durham University 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 bridge the divide between research and practice and leads to more effective early years provision for all children.”

Dr Collins will formally announce the EEF’s expansion into the early years and the Early Years Toolkit at today’s Early Years Matters conference, hosted by 4 Children. Speaking alongside childcare minister Sam Gyimah, he will stress the value of using evidence to inform how nurseries and pre-schools spend their Early Years Pupil Premium.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1.The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education grant of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £53 million to 94 projects working with over 600,000 pupils in over 4,800 schools across England.

2.The Early Years Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research developed by the EEF and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The Toolkit currently covers 12 topics and summarises research from over 1,600 studies. The Toolkit is a live resource which is regularly updated as new findings are published. To access the Toolkit please visit:https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/.

3.The 12 topics covered in the Early Years Toolkit are: Communication and language approaches, Digital technology, Earlier starting age, Early literacy approaches, Early numeracy approaches, Extra hours, Parental engagement, Physical development approaches, Physical environment, Play-based learning, Self-regulation strategies, Social and emotional learning strategies.

4.The Early Years Pupil Premium is additional funding introduced in 2015 that provides nurseries and pre-schools and an extra £300 for every child eligible for free school meals.