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Research report

Effective early childhood education programmes: a best-evidence synthesis

Bette Chambers, Alan Cheung, Robert E. Slavin, Dewi Smith and Mary Laurenzano

This report systematically reviews research on the outcomes of programmes that teach young children in a group setting before they begin reception

Studies included valid measures of language, literacy, phonological awareness, mathematical, and/or cognitive outcomes that were independent of the experimental treatments. A total of 40 studies, evaluating 29 different programmes met these criteria for outcomes assessed at the end of preschool and/or reception/kindergarten.

The review concludes that on academic outcomes at the end of preschool and/or reception, six early childhood programmes showed strong evidence of effectiveness and five had moderate evidence of effectiveness. Of the 29 programmes reviewed, eight are available for implementation in the UK.

A few longitudinal studies have followed their subjects into secondary school, and even adulthood. These studies show that comprehensive programmes, from a cognitive developmental perspective rather than a solely academic focus, had better long-term effects on social adjustment outcomes such as reductions in delinquency, welfare dependency, and teenage pregnancy, and increases in educational and employment levels.