An exploratory study on the impact of an early years' preschool intervention programme in the Republic of Ireland

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Martin, Shirley
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University College Cork
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Early years’ education has increasingly been identified as a mechanism to alleviate educational disadvantage in areas of social exclusion. Early years’ intervention programmes are now a common government social policy for addressing social problems (Reynolds, Mann, Miedel, and Smokowski, 1997). In particular, state provided early years’ programmes such as Head Start in the United States and Early Start in Ireland have been established to combat educational disadvantage for children experiencing poverty and socio-economic inequality. The focus of this research is on the long-term outcomes of an early years’ intervention programme in Ireland. It aims to assess whether participation in the programme enhances the life course of children at-risk of educational disadvantage. It involves an in-depth analysis of one Early Start project which was included in the original eight projects established by the Department of Education and Science in 1994. The study utilises a multi-group design to provide a detailed analysis of both the academic and social progress of programme participants. It examines programme outcomes from a number of perspectives by collecting the views of the three main stakeholders involved in the education process; students who participated in Early Start in 1994/5, their parents and their teachers. To contribute to understanding the impact of the programme from a community perspective interviews were also conducted with local community educators and other local early years’ services. In general, Early Start was perceived by all participants in this study as making a positive contribution to parent involvement in education and to strengthening educational capital in the local area. The study found that parents and primary school teachers identified aspects of school readiness as the main benefit of participation in Early Start and parents and teachers were very positive about the role of Early Start in preparing children for the transition to formal school. In addition to this, participation in Early Start appears to have made a positive contribution to academic attainment in Maths and Science at Junior Certificate level. Students who had participated in Early Start were also rated more highly by their second level teachers in terms of goal-setting and future orientation which are important factors in educational attainment. Early Start then can be viewed as providing a positive contribution to the long-term social and academic outcomes for its participants.
Early years education
Martin, S. 2008. An exploratory study on the impact of an early years' preschool intervention programme in the Republic of Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.