to the Research
- Funded by the
Department of Education, Department of Health, Social Services and
Public Safety and Social Steering Group, the EPPNI is a longitudinal
study, with data drawn from the following sources:
- Child social/behavioural
profiles completed by pre-school and primary staff;
with pre-school centre staff;
- Quality rating
scales from observation and interviews;
- Case studies.
- The EPPNI project
investigated the effects of pre-school education and care on children's
development (3-8 years old). Additionally, there were three intensive
case studies of pre-school settings. This research report summarises
the empirical work published in thirteen Technical Papers.
- A wide range
of information was collected on over 800 children, studied longitudinally,
from the age of 3-4 and then annually until the end of Key Stage 1.
Data were collected on developmental profiles, background characteristics
related to their parents, the child's HLE, and the pre-school settings
children attended. Eighty pre-school settings were drawn from a range
of providers and a sample of 'home children' was recruited at entry
to school for comparison with the pre-school group. The 'value added'
by pre-school was examined.
over the pre-school period
- Pre-school experience
enhances cognitive and social development in all children. Full-time
attendance had no benefits over part-time provision for cognitive
development at the start of primary school.
children benefit even more where they are with a mixture of children
from different social backgrounds.
- There are significant
differences between pre-school settings and their impact on children.
Nursery schools/classes have the overall best outcomes, with good
outcomes also for playgroups. Other types of pre-school produce benefits,
but to a lesser extent.
- High quality
pre-schooling is related to better intellectual and social/behavioural
development for children. Observed quality was higher in nursery schools
and classes; and staff training and qualifications were associated
with better quality of provision.
- For all children,
the quality of the HLE was more important for intellectual and social
development than parental occupation, education or income. What parents
do is more important than who parents are.
at the end of Key Stage 1
effects of pre-school were evident throughout Key Stage 1, with some
reduction in strength for some outcomes compared to school entry.
- Type of pre-school
was related to longer term effects, with effects most strong for nursery
schools and classes, followed closely by playgroups, while other types
of pre-school had less long-lasting effects.
- Pre-school quality
was significantly related to children's development over the first
four years of primary school.
- A small group
of children continued to be 'at risk' of special educational needs,
with more of the 'home' children falling into this group, even after
taking into account background factors.
Summary of pre-school
- For cognitive
outcomes, the children from nursery school/classes show the most benefit,
followed by the children from playgroups, then those from private
day nurseries and reception classes, with children from reception
groups showing no overall cognitive benefits.
- For social/behavioural
outcomes, children from nursery school/classes and playgroups show
equivalent benefit, with children from the other types of pre-school
showing a smaller advantage over the home group.
The impact of
the HLE and early childcare
- Activities undertook
by the parents, which were found to promote development, included
reading with the child, teaching songs and nursery rhymes, painting
and drawing and playing with letters and numbers. These activities
were all associated with higher intellectual and social/behavioural
scores and could be viewed as 'protective' factors in reducing special
educational needs. The HLE was only moderately associated with parent's
educational or occupational level and more strongly associated with
children's intellectual and social development. What parents do with
their children is therefore more important than who parents are.
- High levels
of 'group care' in the first three years were associated with slightly
higher levels of anti-social behaviour for a small group of children
when assessed at age 3.
- The case studies
revealed that there is no 'level playing field' in terms of the training
of staff, staff salaries and conditions of service, adult-child ratios,
resources or accommodation. The three EPPNI case studies identified
four areas that are important when working with children aged 3-5
years: management and staff; ethos and emotional climate of the settings;
parental partnership; and pedagogy.
- The EPPNI findings
are supported by findings elsewhere, such as the linked project in
England and also studies elsewhere.
- High quality
pre-school provision has been shown to have positive effects on children's
intellectual and social behavioural development. Pre-school can play
a part in combating social exclusion for disadvantaged children by
promoting a better start to primary school, and has a positive impact
over and above family influences.
- The type of
pre-school centre is important, with better outcomes associated with
certain types of provision. The HLE is identified as a separate influence.
- The benefits
of pre-school education are clearly demonstrated for children in NI
and nursery classes/school and playgroup provision should be expanded.
This is further supported by the fact that a reduction in the risk
of developing Special Educational Needs was found to be associated
with good quality pre-school provision.
are available on the DENI