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MP's report calls for more pre-school intervention. When is enough enough?

(36 Posts)
onimolap Wed 19-Jan-11 11:09:54

Here's a link to the BBC report on this.

The government-commissioned report (by Labour MP Graham Allen) recommends regular assessments of all pre-school children, focusing on their social and emotional development.

His report says success or failure in early childhood has "profound economic consequences" and calls for more private money to be channelled into early intervention schemes to help set children on the right path in life.

It also recommends numbering all year groups from birth not just from the start of primary school.

He also calls for regular assessment of pre-school-age children, focusing on social and emotional development "so that they can be put on the path to 'school readiness'".

He recommends setting up an independent early intervention foundation to drive early intervention forward, assess policies and attract investment.

Chil1234 Wed 19-Jan-11 12:43:57

I'm uneasy about blanket measures, as a rule. There's no need to catalogue every single child from birth. It must be very obvious to HVs, social workers and other professionals which families need help with basic skills such as empathy - and I doubt very much that they are all 'young first time mothers'. I'm glad that they've moved away from the idea that poor children are automatically poorly parented - that was also the wrong approach.

cory Wed 19-Jan-11 12:47:53

Depends on what they mean by early intervention. In this country it seems to mean endless testing and form filling. The Scandinavian nurseries/nursery schools seem to be able to be a beneficial influence in children's life without all the testing, simply by employing very highly trained staff and having lots of outdoor access/trips/high quality crafts teaching and cookery. But those things cost money...

onimolap Wed 19-Jan-11 12:53:24

I don't see the plans (such as they are at the moment) as remotely affordable.

But it does seem pretty blanket - assessments all round, numbering you from birth with your "school-readiness" cohort, and bribing the State's approved child-rearing ideas into every home (and documenting how "well" you comply).

Poogles Wed 19-Jan-11 13:03:35

Early intervention is only going to work if the parents WANT it. Otherwise it is a waste of money. No point in 'teaching' someone parenting skills if they have no intention of using them.

ToxicKitten Wed 19-Jan-11 15:20:27

His report says success or failure in early childhood has "profound economic consequences" and calls for more private money to be channelled into early intervention schemes to help set children on the right path in life.

This tells you all you need to know about the true motivation here. It tells you that well-being is only relevant to the Authorities in the context of economic value later in life.

Very few parents consciously don't "want" to parent well, but sometimes the delivery of assistance and encouragement to do so can seem so judgemental that the parent can't get past their own issues even for the sake of their children.

We should stop treating parents and children as seperate species, and where abuse occurs try to work out why and how to stop it in as non-judgemental way as possible.(True remorseless sadism excepted.) Of course I agree children must be protected, and if children truly are the most important thing in Child Protection then money should be no object to ensure their overall well-being. And that should never be an "economic" issue either!

Chil1234 Wed 19-Jan-11 15:54:56

This isn't about child protection but about improving life-chances at an earlier age than when they walk through the doors on the first day at school already well behind their contemporaries. And of course there are economic implications of doing nothing as well as social ones - but that doesn't necessarily make it the prime motivation or even a bad motivation. In a broader context, the economic motivation to provide free state education is so that we have a literate and numerate workforce. And you could say the economic motivation behind the NHS was to supply a fit, healthy workforce.

Protecting children from harm is not the issue here.

mamijacacalys Wed 19-Jan-11 18:04:19

Agree with Cory and Chil1234.

Some of the things I was handed out by the HV when mine were around 2 years old were, IMO, tokenistic and laughable e.g. free story books, colouring books and crayons. As if I hadn't already encouraged any of that from a much earlier stage?

The 'blanket' approach as it stands is a waste of money and so I think that if some focussed, targetted intervention needs to be done then it should be properly thought out.

In terms of a blanket approach, the Early Years Foundation phase is already moving us towards a more Scandinavian model, but as Cory says, it could probably do with a lot more funding to put it on a proper equal footing.

ToxicKitten Wed 19-Jan-11 18:59:12

Oh I agree with you both as well

I suppose my objection is really the blanket approach and the use of language.

As to my reference to Child Protection, any intervention to support and assist children will also give a better perceived opportunity to detect "problems".

As to mentioning "success or failure" in early years, I feel a bit hmm. It depends so much on the definitions of success or failure, and there is already alot of presumtion and expectation attached to milestones for behaviour now.

I'm just very wary of one size fits all child assessment - causes yet more divisions.

What is it they say - the way to hell is paved with good intentions!

ToxicKitten Wed 19-Jan-11 19:00:06

Throws up a "p" for presumption!! wink

pascoe28 Wed 19-Jan-11 20:09:06

First thing we should do is stop paying those least capable of raising children to have more...

onimolap Wed 19-Jan-11 20:14:22

The snag with this proposal is at it seems to be all-encompassing in terms of assigning all children to a numbered cohort from birth and assessing them on their school readiness.

Then perhaps there will be targeted intervention - if private funding is secured.

It seems a massive intrusion of the State into the home, for very uncertain outcome.

WipsGlitter Wed 19-Jan-11 20:23:16

The economic arguement is also that for money invested when children are younger, goverments will be able to save money as there will not be the same need for intervention when children are older. The nobel laureate for econmics, James Heckman, is a big advocate for this.

You might also be interested in The Perry Pre-School Study, where children attended a high quality pre-school and they have now tracked those children for 40 years and have found that they are more likely that their peer group to be in employment, not taking drugs, not involve in crime and in more stable relationships.

mamijacacalys Wed 19-Jan-11 21:01:18

Toxic, I share your concern about too much nanny state and where the balancing point is between the wellbeing of society as a whole and the individual's rights.

But when I googled James Heckman (links here heTechnologyofSkillFormation and the Perry study cited by Wips, it is all very fascinating and, ultimately, seems like just common sense to me. The Perry statistics for IQ at 5 and achievement at 14 in themselves are I think enough of a justification.

Importantly, both studies talk specifically about targetting disadvantaged groups rather than all society.

jackstarb Wed 19-Jan-11 21:19:42

A bit of aside but -

"It also recommends numbering all year groups from birth not just from the start of primary school."

How is that going to work?

So, year 1 is babies up to their first birthday. But if they want to dovetail that into primary school years - then an August born baby will get a couple of weeks in 'year 1' before the start of the 'year 2'.

At least it will illustrate how ludicrous it is to set children's development milestones by academic year group.

KarenHL Wed 19-Jan-11 21:26:24

What a load of rubbish - yet another poorly thought-out exercise in social engineering.

What next, hand over all children at birth to be tagged & barcoded!

Litchick Wed 19-Jan-11 21:35:59

Well we've had education, education, education...and sadly it didn't work.

Why? Because schools cannot assist children whose parents are disinterested in their education, no matter how much money we throw at it.

So this is the natural next step. Intervene in families when the children are pre-school.

The cynic in me says that this too will be pointless. That you cannot make parents read to their children, turn off the TV set, run around in the park.

However, perhaps it could help some children and so is worth a shot.

huddspur Wed 19-Jan-11 22:13:49

I think parents attitude are a major influence on childrens educational attainment. My parents weren't bothered about how I did at school as "most stuff isn't worth knowing" and I was fortunate that I had a brilliant primary school teacher to drive me on which allowed me to get into grammar school.
My brother is 11 but have a reading age of 8 but my dad thinks this is amusing hmm

cheltenhammum Thu 20-Jan-11 20:46:07

The coalition government are now talking about league tables for 5 year olds. What Graham Allen doesn't say is that the UK over-early focus on targets and outcomes does not correlate with later success and that we are rapidly falling behind other countries almost certainly because we are introducing too much too soon. Children are amazing natural learners and most don't see themselves as failures until they go to school.

Someone has started a petition about the league tables on that already has 969 signatures

posh010 Thu 20-Jan-11 21:32:29

Parenting advice would be great and further down the line could be considered 'the norm' and not viewed with suspicion.
I do think that guidelines through development are too generalised though and can cause anxiety amongst new mums; the proposed actions would only exacerbate this surely?
The proposed outlines are presumably reacting to the long held view that early learned behaviour affects future development; therefore creating a plan with intervention at the early stage of pre school life would create different results... not something new but, as always, it boils down to how effective the practice is.

cakehole1970 Fri 21-Jan-11 11:39:36

just comment on the parenting support element - I think everyone can benefit from parenting advice. the people who think they do not need any peer advice/or ever to read a book on a parenting issue are not necessarily the best parents - an this is definitely something that crosses socio-economic groups.
The books/advice I have valued are ones based on up to date child psychology and also those saying trust your instincts! but have made me think about positive and conscious parenting and not repeating necessarily how I was brought up. Or even how I parented step children a decade ago in fact.
I also think that becoming a parent raises issues for many about their own childhood/relationships and an openness about seeking counselling or other support is something maybe HV and GPs could more usefully promote. This may especially be true for dads whose own dads were not great role models and who don't have the same social network of support many mums do.

bestemor Sat 22-Jan-11 23:22:25

I wonder if the Perry Pre-school Study that WipsGlitter mentions is the one I remember hearing about a few years ago; in this one, a group of pre-school children were assigned randomly to either of 2 nurseries: one focussing on early academic training, the other stressing PLAY.
The two groups were followed into adulthood and the finding was that there was no long-term difference in their academic achievement, but the group from the play-focussed nursery were less likely to be involved in crime and drugs and more likely to have stable relationships, do voluntary work, etc.
I think it was A.S.Neill who said "Play is children's work". A healthy toddler playing freely is gobbling up experiences of every kind - you could call it inputting data by the megabyte! In particular, through imaginitive play children learn to empathise with others. So the definition of "high-quality" pre-school provision would seem to be PLAY PLAY PLAY

BALD Sat 22-Jan-11 23:46:54

random factoid from me:

I blundered through parenting my own children then as they grew older I moved into CMing (oldest was 5, youngest was 3 when I started) and found ongoing training for my job has given me tools applicable to my own children

So I think there's a case for some sort of parenting support, be it classes, or books, or something else

StuffingGoldBrass Sat 22-Jan-11 23:55:34

Oh this is a load of old cock, yet another way of wasting money on trying to force everyone to conform with whatever the latest fashions in childrearing are. Children are not all the same and don't all develop at the same rate, even NT ones. It's unnerving enough to have thick or badly trained or just plain officious HVs flapping at you if your baby is a week late in walking, talking or growing a tooth according to their charts, WTF are they going to start harassing people over next?

onimolap Sun 23-Jan-11 07:51:54

It would be silly to do anything but praise the idea of plentiful parenting advice freely available to all.

Is that what is really happening with this report? Or is the advice and support instead a wrapper for a programme of State intervention into every home - assessing and documenting every child?

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