February 2, 2013: The importance of parent support and education has been highlighted in the findings of a major report into early years supports for children in disadvantaged areas.
The finding is contained in an evaluation of an Early Years Service which was coordinated by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and aimed to support and target families in Tallaght West whose children may have faced barriers to educational achievement and well-being.
The evaluation found that children who took part in the tailored programme demonstrated improved attendance, behaviour and social skills on entry to school, in comparison to children in a control group.
Given these positive findings the Report has recommended additional targeted early year supports for children in disadvantaged areas alongside existing universal supports.
In particular the provision of a specific parenting support and education programme as part of the early years initiative was found to have a positive effect on the outcomes for the children.
CDI CEO Ms. Marian Quinn said: “The more sessions of a parenting course that parents attended, the more beneficial the home learning environment became, indicating a positive effect of the intervention parenting course (Parents Plus Community Course).
“Our evaluation showed that the Parents Plus Community Course was identified as being well implemented and well-received by parents and practitioners. This is likely to be due to it being evidence-based and manualised, in addition to being supported by a well-trained and accessible mentor.”
CDI’s Early Years Service programme provided specialised supports to pre-school children for 4 hours 15 minutes per day, five days a week including access to a dedicated speech and language therapist, specialist primary health care support, a dedicated Parent/Carer Facilitator and a parent support and education programme.
Further recommendations from the research include:
- The inclusion of a speech and language needs awareness module in all Early Years practitioner training;
- The provision of well-trained early years practitioners, and strong and engaged managers in early years services;
- All Government Departments continue to commit to using evidence to inform planning and service delivery and give serious consideration to the implications of the evaluation for professional training, service planning and integration; and
- All services for children are evaluated, and those services and models which have no demonstrable impact on outcomes for children are incrementally removed and replaced with evidence-based programmes.
A Policy Brief extracting key findings relevant to early years policy, the full Evaluation Report and a short video summary are available at www.twcdi.ie. The programme was evaluated using a randomised control trial which is often seen as the ‘gold standard’ in social research.
CDI has worked in the community in Tallaght West since 2007 and in that time more than 2,000 children have participated in its eight programmes, of which the Early Years Service is one.
Given the success and positive outcomes of this programme, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has provided funding to continue the Early Years Service in Tallaght West in 2013 and the County Childcare Committee has taken on responsibility for quality assurance of it.
CDI is one of three Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) organisations, jointly funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Atlantic Philanthropies. The PEIP explores new methods for improving outcomes for children in an integrated way, with a fund of €36 million.
In Budget 2013 the PEIP sites were identified as having a role to play in rolling out the Government’s plan for an Area Based Response to Child Poverty. €2.5 million has been allocated for 2013, rising to €4.75m in 2016, after which it will diminish. Three new areas will be identified, and the three existing sites will have a mentoring role in developing these.
CDI Launches new website
To coincide with this Report launch, CDI today launched a new website at www.twcdi.ie. The navigation, graphics and layout have been improved on the new site and additional features such as newsletter sign up and members and professionals sections have been added.
Ronan Cavanagh, Communications Coordinator, Childhood Development Initiative: (086) 317 9731.
Policy Brief, full report and video summary at www.cdi.ie