PLEASE, please, please …… will researchers look at the ‘bigger picture’   2 comments

As a registered childminder I am getting more and more concerned about the reports that keep coming out, saying that school is best, or attendance at pre school achieves x, y and z outcomes.

Another of these reports came to my attention last week – this one by Penny Roy and Shula Chiat with the title ‘Preschool attendance boosts language in disadvantaged children’

If you have not read it, this is the link Roy annd Chiat report

The problem is – not that I disagree with the findings, because I know from first had experience that regular attendance at a pre school group does boost language development in children – the problem is that the researchers – (and not just these researchers) only collect data from a very narrow perspective, and do not look at the ‘bigger picture’ – this means that people and in particular government jump to conclusions about what is right and best for young children.

You see I think researchers sometimes do not look at the right criteria and ask the right questions.

Take speech and language which is the focus of this research – I can not see any evidence of involving registered childminders in this research, I can not see any data that looks at any difference between parents who talk to their children and those who don’t, or data around parents who access parent and toddler groups and those who don’t.

My findings from my unscientific personal research are, it is not attending pre school that makes the difference – it is having adults who talk to you and with you, who sing to you and with you, who show an interest in the things that interest you, play with you, read to you that makes the difference. It is the whole social experience of mixing with other children and adults (but that could be Grandma and your cousin, or another child attending the same childminder, or going to a parent and toddler group- not just attending pre school)

I also worry, that well meaning researchers are looking at high quality provision for three year olds and assuming that doing the same for two years olds will be just as effective.

In fact in my opinion most two years would be better in small group settings with specialist provision for two year olds, or home based settings such as registered childminders.

I also think a lot more could be done to support parents to improve language development in their children – with support around attending parent and toddler sessions, maybe support materials such as ideas sheets, books, nursery rhyme CD’s and so on. In my opinion it is not poverty that limits children’s opportunity to develop language skills, it is lack of knowledge and experience of the adults in their lives. In some families we now have third generations of parents who had poor parenting themselves, we need to stop this cycle and give parents the skills needed. Sending children to pre school or even to a registered childminder will not address the core issue – yes it will help but it will not tackle the root cause.

This of course is going to take a change of policy from – the belief that only school or preschool can improve the outcomes for children – to a more joined up policy that looks at root causes, long and short term solutions – and indeed all available options

However as a starting point – PLEASE will someone do some research that looks at the outcomes of children who attend a registered childminding setting and those who stay at home with their parents, who are disadvantaged but still have good language development – and unpick the whys and hows.

Any research that only focusses on a narrow remit will only come up with the answers that match that remit.

By suggesting that attendance at a pre school is the ONLY way to improve language development for disadvantage children – a disservice is being done to families who do are disadvantaged in some ways but still do their best with their children and their children thrive; and also does a disservice to all other settings who can and do achieve excellent outcomes for the children in their care.

I do agree that it is regular opportunities that make a difference – but this can be achieved at a childminder setting and with parents supported at home, – as well of course in a pre school setting.

However, it should also be remembered that even 15 or 20 hours a week in a pre school setting (especially if term time only) is only a fraction of a child’s waking hours each week, and so if parents were supported and talked to their child – far more could be achieved.

SO as the title of this blog says PLEASE, please, please will researchers look at the bigger picture and not ‘overlook’ vital evidence and in doing so suggest there is only one way to achieve what we all want – better outcomes for children

And the irony is – the ‘bigger picture’ may provide more answers and more affordable and accessible options for both parents and government budgets.

Posted January 22, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “PLEASE, please, please …… will researchers look at the ‘bigger picture’

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  1. The most linquistically-impoverished facility I worked in in the US in was very expensive. One of the biggest challenges was having a Portuguese/Brazilian lead toddler teacher who was unable to communicate with her staff, parents or the children in English, the primary language of most children attending.
    Most recently a child from my mother and baby group is reported as being referred for speech and language therapy. She has been in the class for a year and prior to that she had an English speaking full time nanny for her first 18 months.

    In my opinion she was placed in the facility at the time her language should be been burgeoning and ended up virtually in a non-English speaking environment. Her parents are in their mid-40s and both work full time in their careers and she is an only child. They too may well be struggling in speaking enough to their daughter when they are with her, but I see the primary issue being the lack of fluency of the teacher and staff.

    It does not appear that this study addressed the level of language and early childhood training of the staff at the pre-schools, nor where the child spent the first three years of his life. I fail to see that socioeconomic status is always the primary issue with poor language development.

    I wonder when these two professors were last in a classroom of young children in recent years – and I don’t mean visiting, I mean actually working with children day to day.

    You are still hitting the nail on the head with your commentary Penny!

    • Thank you Helen for your comments.

      To me it all seems so clear – just a bit of common sense really – if you start with looking at the bigger picture you will see the bigger picture!

      Most research is very robust – and I am not doubting the findings – but data collection leads to limited results.

      Also in my opinion, those who fund research often have ‘a reason’ for wanting a particular result and so limit the range of the research project.

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