Well-educated early years workforce vital to closing gaps
Working in early years should not be seen as a less well-paid, lower status and less skilled job than working with older children, according to a new report by the educational charity the Sutton Trust.
Its recommends that a well-targeted investment in training those who work with young children was crucial, particularly in the UK, which despite the fact it spends more than other countries on early childhood education has one of the biggest gaps in ‘school readiness’ between the richest and poorest four-and five-year-olds.
Children from the poorest fifth of homes in the US are on average nearly 22 months behind children from the richest homes in vocabulary tests at the age of four and five. In the UK, the gap is 19 months, in Australia 14.5 months, and in Canada 10.6 months.
Despite having similar levels of inequality, Canada and Australia have greater social mobility than the UK and the US.
Development gaps between children become wider educational gaps as children grow older, making investment in early years crucial.
Although parenting and parental education were seen as the biggest reason for these gaps, the trust said that the education of early years and childcare workers matters because they can do a lot to improve the vocabulary, cognitive and social skills of young children, particularly when they are not gaining these skills at home.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, "The early years are vital to every child’s development, and essential to their future life chances and social mobility. The Government is right to continue investing in the early years, with more places for poorer two year-olds, but it is vital that the workforce has the skills and education to provide those youngsters with a good vocabulary and the cognitive and social skills that will prepare them for school.
"Working with young children should not be seen as a lower skilled, lower paid or lower status profession than working with those over the age of five. Most of the gaps that we see between poorer and better off young people are evident from a very early age, so investing wisely at this stage can make a huge difference."
A Department for Education spokesperson said, "The early years are crucial in helping all children, particularly those from the most disadvantaged areas, develop and be prepared for school. All three- and four-year-olds are already entitled to free early education. We are expanding the entitlement so that more than a quarter of a million two-year-olds will have free early years education from September 2014."
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