here - Pobal

Do the early years matter?
Marjorie Smith
Thomas Coram Research Unit
Institute of Education, University of London
• the relevance of the early
• the importance of early
intervention, including
• the importance of
The relevance of the
early years
Research now shows that:
“Many challenges in adult society have their roots in
the early years of life, including major public health
problems such as obesity, heart disease, and mental
health problems. Experiences in early childhood are
also related to criminality, problems in literacy and
numeracy, and economic participation”
Final Report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2008).
Geneva, World Health Organization.
Cohort studies have
demonstrated that
Quality of
impacts on:
• children’s health
• behaviour
• well being (emotional health)
• intelligence
• educational attainment
Mutual gaze
with baby
More alert and
Alert and
talking to baby
Key attributes of parenting ‘capacity’.
physical care; health care; protection from danger;
education; adequate nutrition; opportunities for
development; preparation for adulthood and
independence; development of self esteem;
opportunity for spirituality, identity, affection and
trust; social and cognitive skills; stability of close
relationships; economic support; moral guidance;
and model adult behaviour, and self regulation.
• Campion (1995)
Intergenerational transmission of disadvantage
Early social disadvantage
Poorer performance at school
Lower income and higher fertility in adulthood
Poorer health care and nutrition in pregnancy
Less empowered to provide stimulation to their
own children
The importance of
early intervention
“Each one of you is your own person, endowed with
rights, worthy of respect and dignity. Each one of you
deserves to have the best possible start in life, to
complete a basic education of the highest quality, to
be allowed to develop your full potential and provided
the opportunities for meaningful participation in your
Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel
(UNICEF, 2000)
“Economists now assert on the basis of the available
evidence that investment in early childhood is the
most powerful investment a country can make, with
returns over the life course many times the amount
of the original investment.”
WHO (2008)
Effects of Pre-school
• Preschool experience (compared to none)
enhances all-round development in children
• Gains are greatest in social development
• Duration of attendance – starting earlier – is
related to better intellectual outcomes
• Quality of provision is important – particularly
for disadvantaged children
• Gains remain evident into early school years
based (largely) on EPPE project findings, 2004
Results of pre schooling/early intervention
• as a function of the domain evaluated, and
• the timescale of the evaluation
– Effects on intellectual development often ‘wash
– Impacts on academic learning (school readiness)
vary with socioeconomic status
– Findings on language impacts vary – some
contradictory results
the importance – and
potential pitfalls - of
Early versus later intervention
more serious
For example,
early speech and
language problems
child's age