How a Nursery School Education is a Secret Weapon in Fighting Inequality

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Nursery schools occupy a unique position in education, whether your child is attending the Global Indian International School, a government-funded school or otherwise. Government-funded nursery schools tend to serve children from ages two to four and are typically located in areas of deprivation, supporting higher than average proportions of children with additional needs.

Research shows that the part that government-funded nursery schools play in their local communities has expanded over the past decade, filling significant gaps in welfare provision in England. Before the coronavirus pandemic, nursery schools offered support to children and families that ranged far beyond their educational role. Now, they are becoming more important than ever, especially during the pandemic.

Studies show that nursery schools help improve child outcomes, especially for children from disadvantaged or low-income families. Children from disadvantaged families tend to have lower levels of school readiness when they enter school than children from more privileged families. Some countries try to decrease this inequality through government-funded nursery schools.  There is plenty of evidence out there, including long-term studies of large publicly funded nursery schools in Europe and Latin America, that these programs help reduce inequality in child development. There are some pros and cons of these nursery school programs, including:

Pros

  • Small model nursery school programs help improve child outcomes, especially for children from disadvantaged or low-income families.
  • Large government-funded nursery school programs delivered at scale help improve outcomes for children from disadvantaged or low-income families.
  • Nursery school programs help boost children’s readiness for primary school.
  • The benefits of high-quality nursery school programs continue into adolescence or young adulthood, and the benefits are greater for more disadvantaged children.
  • High-quality nursery school pays for itself by raising the overall achievement of all students and reducing the inequality of achievement.

Cons

  • High-quality nursery school programs are expensive.
  • Highly educated and well-trained nursery school staff and reasonable class sizes and student to teacher ratios are required for high-quality nursery school.
  • The evidence of positive short-term benefits is stronger, but these benefits are not necessarily maintained over the long term.
  • As children enter primary school more ready and able to learn, primary schools need to become better positioned to support children and build on their skills.

Filling the gaps

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on measuring the effectiveness of the youngest children at schools, including nursery school students, raising the stakes for all schools. Without high-quality early education, children who struggle have little chance of meeting these standards and catching up with their more advantaged and privileged peers. This is an important service offered by nursery schools.

The purpose of nursery schools is to offer high-quality early education to children before they enter primary school. Nursery schools aim to help young students develop their numeracy, literacy and social skills. They are typically led by a headteacher and employ other qualified teachers. 

Research shows that nursery schools are a crucial provider of quality early years experiences for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, as well as those with special educational needs and disabilities. They make an important contribution in preparing all children for primary school. Experts say that without these nursery schools, the most vulnerable children and those with disabilities and special needs will not go anywhere. If they do not have a home life to support them, then they will always be behind in their educational journey.

Above and beyond

Nursery schools offer substantial assistance to children and their families beyond just their role in education, ranging from offering clothing to support with completing social benefit forms. Experts say that it’s about more than just supporting the child, it’s about supporting the entire family and the local community around the school as well.

Nursery schools have absorbed these additional areas of need, and teachers say that for children, it’s not just about numeracy and literacy, it’s about so much more. There are a lot of things that children need support with, including their feeding, their sleep, their toiletry needs and their physical development. The expansion in the role that nursery schools play is linked to government policies and funding.

Complex role

The consequences of these changes are felt by nursery school staff members, who say that their role has become more complex, as they are catering to more children with special educational needs and disabilities as well as other vulnerable groups. Research confirms the important role that nursery schools play in local communities and in supporting children from poorer and or disadvantaged families. The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic will increase this need, as unemployment is impacting vulnerable children and families. Nursery schools have never been more important to help level the playing field than now.

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