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Save The Children highlight the importance of the early years

Save The Children has today published a new scientific briefing, in association with the Institute of Child Health at University College London. The report entitled ‘Lighting Up Young Brains’ points to the early years of a child’s life being a crucial period for their development.

Thirteen key figures in child development and neuroscience have joined forces to urge the government to make play-time ‘brain-time’ under the guidance of a qualified early years teacher.  They have termed these years as a ‘lightbulb moment’ for children, and state that failure to develop adequate language skills in the early years can leave children struggling to learn and to catch up at school.

The paper also includes findings from a survey amongst parents, conducted by Save The Children, which revealed:

  • 61% of parents said school was the most important learning period for children
  • Almost half of all parents (47%) have low expectations for their child’s early learning – hoping their children know 100 words by their third birthday – half as many as the government recommends;
  • More than half of parents (56%) said they didn’t get enough help and advice to understand their child’s early learning

Commenting on the briefing, Liz Bayram, Chief Exec of Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years says:

“At PACEY we have long known that the early years is a key time for children’s early cognitive development as well as their social, emotional and physical development. Save The Children’s findings are an important reminder of this, but don’t go far enough in recognising that a child’s cognitive development is highly dependent on their social, emotional and physical development. A confident child is better able to learn. Effective learning is also dependent on the development of fine motor skills and the ability to play and socialise with other children.

“Save The Children are right to highlight the important contribution of qualified early years teachers but they should have gone further and recognised the contribution of all early years practitioners. Graduate leadership is important but alone won’t address the issues raised in this report.

“Most early years practitioners hold a minimum relevant level 3 qualification and, with government developing its workforce strategy at the moment, PACEY believes it is vital to ensure ALL practitioners are supported to continue to develop their skills; remain up to date and to progress in their chosen profession.

“There is a strong foundation to build from. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is widely recognised as an excellent framework to support early child development and 85% of childcare settings in England are graded as good or outstanding by Ofsted, despite new responsibilities being placed on them and challenging funding issues.

“Through close partnership working with parents, practitioners can provide the nurturing, caring and stimulating environment young children need, not just for their cognitive but also their social, emotional and physical development.”