Doubts over progress in early learning

Anthea Fraser Gupta A.F.Gupta at
Wed Aug 29 08:17:14 UTC 2007

Doubts over progress in early learning

Rachel Williams
Tuesday August 28, 2007
The Guardian 

Children starting primary school are yet to show any signs of improved
development despite Labour's introduction of measures designed to boost
early years education, new research claims today.
A study of 35,000 children in England between 2001 and 2006 suggested
they were no further advanced now than they were before Labour's
overhaul of education for pre-primary school youngsters. The
initiatives, which included the Sure Start programme, free nursery
education for all three-year-olds, the early childhood curriculum, the
Children's Act 2002, and the Every Child Matters initiative, were
introduced to improve life chances for disadvantaged children and
educational standards in general.
Researchers at Durham University's Curriculum, Evaluation and Management
(CEM) Centre measured the cognitive development of four-year-olds in
areas chosen to be good predictors of later success, such as vocabulary,
early reading and phonological awareness sections.
The data included measurements of how well the children wrote their own
names, their ability to identify objects in a picture, word recognition
and whether they could pick out rhyming words.
After taking account of deprivation, language, age and sex, analysis
suggested the only significant change over time was a slight decline in
picture vocabulary. There was no indication that the gap in attainment
between those entitled and not entitled to free school meals was
"While the assessments used in the study do not measure how many
children were involved in national initiatives, one would have expected
that the major government programmes would have resulted in some
measurable changes in our sample of almost 35,000 children," its author,
Christine Merrell said.
The report is being presented today at the European Association for
Research on Learning and Instruction (Earli) conference in Budapest.
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Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)

School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
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