Review focuses on giving children ‘the best start in life’ following the Covid-19 pandemic

Children's Health

The review underpins the inspectorate’s new strategic focus on early education and giving children ‘the best start in life’ following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today’s report draws on a range of published research to consider how early years practitioners deliver high-quality education for children from birth to 4 years old.

Read the report ‘Best start in life: a research review for early years’.

The report stresses the value of play and teaching, and the importance of developing communication skills. What matters most is that practitioners have considered what they want children to know and be able to do, before deciding how best to teach. Making sure children catch up after the pandemic is still a key challenge in the early years, so practitioners need to think carefully about what content to prioritise. However, the report does not prescribe how to teach a high-quality early years curriculum.

The report found that, high-quality early years curriculum and pedagogy may have the following features:

  • The curriculum considers what all children should learn. It prioritises communication and offers plenty of opportunity for disadvantaged children, or those who speak English as an additional language, to learn and practise speaking and listening.

  • Practitioners choose what activities and experiences they are going to provide for children after deciding what it is that they want children to learn.

  • Adults think carefully about what children already know and can do when deciding what to teach first.

  • Children with gaps in their knowledge get the additional teaching they need so that they can access the same curriculum as their peers.

  • Practitioners consider children’s interests when choosing activities. They also expand children’s interests so they make progress in all areas of learning.

  • Children’s play is valued and used to teach many aspects of the curriculum. Learning through play is enhanced by skilful adult intervention.

  • Practitioners introduce children to new knowledge through explicit teaching and follow this up with practice through play.

Amanda Spielman, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said:

Every child deserves a good early education. Their first few years equip children with the building blocks they need to succeed in childhood and beyond.

Many children in nurseries or childcare began life during the pandemic and have had to catch up with communication and social skills. Early years practitioners have worked hard to teach children things they’ve missed and to embed that knowledge through play. I hope our review helps them – and highlights the vital work that they do introducing children to education.”

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