The obvious link is that the economic advantage is for children & young people – as, with the right start, they will achieve better educational outcomes which allow access to greater employment opportunities.
This is true – but James Heckman (Nobel laureate in economics) brings a whole new dimension to the concept with his research conclusions that ‘Early childhood development is a smart investment’. Using a graph, his vertical axis looks at the rate of return to investment in human capital and the horizontal axis identifies milestones in life (pre-natal, 0-3, 4-5, school & post-school). This is what he found:
His conclusion? The earlier the investment, the greater the return.
You could be forgiven for thinking this is a no-brainer. Why don’t the ‘powers that be’ just see that and allocate the resources where they are going to do most good? No one would doubt that there are good intentions to do just that. The obvious problem is however, that without ‘new money’, to pump prime the pre-natal stage, local services will see ‘Peter robbed to pay Paul’ and many sound and successful initiatives might lose out because of it.
But, don’t be fooled into thinking this is just about money. Invest and sit back to reap the benefits. Further research by the Sutton Trust sounds a cautionary note! ‘Expanding access to services without attention to quality will not deliver good outcomes for children … furthermore, research has shown that if quality is low, it can have long-lasting detrimental effects on child development instead of bringing positive effects … specialist training and continued access to professional development play an important role in maintaining high quality’.
So - there we are! Yes, we should be investing in the early years and not continually playing catch-up as huge numbers of our children leave mandatory schooling with few or no academic qualifications. However, we should also be investing in the Early Years workforce so that they have the confidence, knowledge and skills to deliver what is needed for the children in their care.
Like to know more? Good language skills are accessible to, and achievable by, the majority of our children. The numbers of children achieving a good level of development (GLD) in terms of Early Learning Goals is closely related to good language development. (Click here for link to Success stories in two Soundswell settings).
If you are an Early Years provider, invest in training for your setting, either via more formal courses (Click here for a link to our training travels flier) or by commissioning an environmental audit which shines a 360 ‘language learning’ light on your setting (Click here for a link to information about Soundswell's 'nursery model')