UK: Expert rejects gloomy early learning research

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Aug 29 13:07:50 UTC 2007

*Expert rejects gloomy early learning research*

*Donald MacLeod*
*Wednesday August 29, 2007*

Claims that the government's £3bn programme of support for young children
and their families is failing to make a difference were dismissed as
premature by a leading child development expert yesterday. Prof Ted
Melhuish, of Birkbeck, University of London, urged the government to hold
its nerve and press ahead with policies like Sure Start, which would bring
long-term benefits.  He criticised the gloomy conclusions drawn from a
Durham University researchers, which found no improvement in language
other skills among four-year-olds in England despite the government's huge
investment in pre-school education and health.

"It's too early," commented Prof Melhuish. The first Sure Start pilots dated
from 1999 and the full programme did not get going until 2004 and children
targeted by the Child Care Act of 2006 would not yet be at school, he said.
"The effects won't show themselves for a couple of years yet and the really
important effects won't show themselves until adolescence," he added. The
evidence that children attending a nursery or playgroup would do better in
later life - and the effects of good quality pre-school care were more
pronounced - was robust and was now the basis of policy in countries
including China, South Korea, Chile and Australia, said Prof Melhuish.
Long-term studies showed the effects lasted into primary school.

He warned: "It's not something where you expect effects overnight, but if
the government were to lose its nerve it would be a disaster. Chopping and
changing policies is not going to do any good here." Changes such as
insisting Sure Start programmes were delivered through children's centres
and strengthening
helped improve the policy, said Prof Melhuish, adding: "The policy
further refinement, but it is heading in the right direction, it's getting
better year by year.",,330643345-115179,00.html
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