There is considerable debate about what and how to teach young children.1 Some
favour a teacher-led, academic-focused approach whilst others argue for a child-centric
and developmental one. This debate is important. The most recent evaluation of Sure Start (England’s flagship pre-school programme) highlights that whilst the scheme is effective in improving health and social outcomes, there has been no significant impact on language development, an important pre-cursor to success at school (Belsky, J. and Melhuish, E., 2007). Analysis of other early intervention programmes around the world highlights similar concerns about literacy and communication skills (Darrow, 2009).
This review aims to establish evidence for policy makers and practitioners as they design and deliver early education interventions. To achieve this, impact studies for programmes targeted at three to five year olds in a group setting were systematically reviewed (quantitative). Then case studies of the six programmes which the review found to have strong evidence of effectiveness were developed (qualitative). The following report details the qualitative findings whilst also referencing key aspects of the quantitative evidence.2