Sustainable funding is needed to provide nurseries
Additional funding is expected to be made available for early childhood care in the aftermath of the pandemic, the researchers say.
Experts from the University of Leeds, the University of Oxford and the University of Oxford Brookes made the call after assessing the benefits of early childhood education and care (ECEC) for children under three years of age during COVID-19.
They found that children who had been in daycare outside the home throughout the UK’s first lockout had further improved their language and thinking skills, especially if they came from backgrounds less favored.
And now they are making several policy recommendations, including
- – A sustainable financing model for the supply of nurseries
– Promotion of funded places in target areas where the participation rate is low
– Removal of administrative barriers to taking up space
Dr Catherine Davies, associate professor of language development at the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, co-author of the study, said: “Our data clearly shows that children of all backgrounds benefit from child care. children during all or part of the week. Their cognitive skills are reinforced, which will also help them in their further learning and development. Government investment in high quality, sustainable early childhood education and care is essential for all families to access this support. ”
As part of a nationally funded project on social distance and development, the aim of the study was to analyze the impact of childcare attendance – and absence – on children. children from different backgrounds, and to provide evidence to policymakers who anticipate new lockdowns and disruptions. early education and care.
Researchers worked with 189 UK families with children aged 8-36 months in the spring and winter of 2020, when nurseries were closed to all children except those of critical workers or those classified as vulnerable. Between March and June 2020, attendance at nurseries fell to less than 10% of usual levels. This was followed by an extended period of quarantine measures, reduced attendance and an interruption of sessions.
Families responded to questions about their use of formal childcare services such as nurseries and childminders before, during and between confinements, informal childcare by family members or friends, and about their income, level of education, occupation and neighborhood. Parents completed surveys on the number of words their child said or understood, and their child’s early thinking skills, or executive functions – the control of attention, behavior and emotions. They followed up six months later, reporting again on their child’s language and thinking skills.
Parents were asked to record their child’s understanding and use of words in categories such as animals, vehicles, and food. They were also asked how often their child exhibited different behaviors, and then played games designed to elicit skills such as waiting, finding, and sorting.
The team then explored the associations between time spent in ECEC, the socio-economic background of families, and children’s growth in terms of language and thinking.
Their results showed that a child who regularly attended ECEC one day a week during the pandemic could understand on average 24 more new words during the spring-winter 2020 period compared to their peers, while a child attending regularly two days might be expected to understand 48 more new words than their peers during the same period, and so on. This effect was greater in children from less affluent backgrounds. Overall, the results suggest that children who were unable to attend nursery were disadvantaged by social distancing measures.
In addition, children from all walks of life who continued to attend the nursery showed increased growth in their thinking skills.
Study co-author Dr Alexandra Hendry, researcher at the University of Oxford, said: “Low-income families have been disproportionately affected by infections, deaths, unemployment and hardship. mental health issues during the pandemic – all stressors that can interfere with family interactions with children We have shown that early childhood education and care strengthens these children’s vocabulary skills and everyone’s thinking ability children.
“Strong capacities in these areas are likely to have positive cascading effects as children advance through their preschool years and beyond.” To maintain these benefits for child development and to level inequalities, high-quality and well-funded early childhood education and care is essential. ”
Social distancing and development study project leader Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez, senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford Brookes University, noted that: The education and care of children can be a way to level out some of the inequalities experienced by children from less privileged backgrounds, while still benefiting all children. ”
Document titled Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) During COVID-19 Stimulates Growth of Language and Executive Function, is published in Infant and Child Development.
The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its rapid response to COVID-19.
Kamini Gadhok MBE, Executive Director of the Royal College of Speech-Language Pathologists, says: “This important research provides clear evidence that young children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a worrying impact on their lives. language development.
Given the importance of language skills for young people’s chances in life, it is imperative that the governments of the four countries put support for children’s communication and language development at the center of education recovery plans. . -school environments to work in partnership with speech therapists. “
Notes to editor:
* The Social Distancing and Development Study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s Rapid Response to COVID-19 (ES / V004085 / 1). The study on social distance and development was undertaken by Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez of the University of Oxford Brookes, in collaboration with Catherine Davies of the University of Leeds, Alexandra Hendry of the University of Oxford, Theodora Gliga from the University of East Anglia and Michelle McGillion from the University of Warwick. Dr Hendry is supported by the Scott Family Junior Research Fellowship in Autism at University College, Oxford.
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