Effective Pre-school and Primary Education 3-11 Project (EPPE 3-11): Influences on children's cognitive and social development in Year 6

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What the resource is:

This DCSF Research Brief, Effective and Pre-school Primary Project (EPPE) 3-11 reports on the relationships between background factors such as the characteristics of the child, family, home, pre-school and primary school,and cognitive and social/behavioural outcomes for children at the end of primary school.  


The aims of the resource:

The resource aims to see if the above characteristics, particularly the quality of pre-school and primary school have a significant effect on pupil outcomes. This report provides a useful summary of the findings which builds on the previous EPPE reports, which can be found at http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/153.html.


Key findings or focus:

Specifically the findings report that:

  • A mother's highest qualification is the biggest predictor of a child's progress in maths and English in primary school
  • Pre-school continues to have an influence on children's' academic, social/behavioural factors in Year 6
  • Children do better in primary schools that themselves are ‘academically effective' in terms of the value-added, rather than end of key stage tests
  • Attending high quality pre-school and an academically effective primary school improves both the social/behavioural and academic outcomes for Year 6 children.

Overall, the report suggests that there is a complex but significant relationship between the home and school environment, cognitive learning and social and behavioural outcomes. Specifically the findings suggest that, where children receive no pre-school provision, or provision of lower quality (as measured by the study), academic and social/behavioural outcomes for children in Year 6 are more likely to be poor. Conversely, a combination of positive support at home and quality pre-school and primary school influences can give a boost to disadvantaged children's outcomes by the end of primary school. Thus, the findings indicate that investment in widespread quality early years provision may go some way to reducing the equity gap and to addressing issues of social inclusion.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:

This is a high quality, rigorous piece of research which has been  conducted by experienced early years researchers. In order to help the reader understand how the findings were arrived at, the researchers provide a summary of the three stages of analysis. The first set of analyses is based on 950 primary schools in 155 local authorities, the second set of analyses was based on a sample of 2701 pupils from 141 pre-school settings, and the findings for the latest report were based on a sample of 125 Year 5 classes, and included two different observations.

The report adds to the debate about the ‘added value' of pre-school versus home learning, and provides a helpful insight into whether attending pre-school makes any differences to academic progress and social behavioural outcomes of pupils throughout their primary schooling. The findings perhaps challenge the notion that it is always best for parents to stay at home with their children during the preschool years. The EPPE sample were in pre-school during 1997-2001, and since then there has been a significant  increase in pre-school provision and investment in early years. Thus, the research basically confirms that this money has been well spent, as it would appear that high quality pre-school education is more likely to lead to better social and cognitive outcomes for pupils.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:

The significance of the Early Years home learning environment is likely to be an important consideration of primary and early years ITE programmes, particularly in light of the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda. The implications for tutors are to ensure that trainees understand that teaching is more than focusing on subject and academic learning, but that it involves an understanding and appreciation that the way children learn, and the attitudes to learning, are a complex mix of experiences from the home and school environment. Tutors who teach on Early Years programmes need to continue to be explicit about what high quality pre- school experience is, and to embed this in the student experience of university and work-based learning.


The relevance to ITE students:

EPPE 3-11 demonstrates the extent to which the individual child, family and home learning environment (HLE) background factors continue to predict children's academic outcomes (attainment/progress) and social/behavioural development in Key Stage 2. Therefore, when students learn how to assess pupil achievements within a school context, they need to be aware of the quality of home and pre-school experiences. This is important, because ITE students need to understand that learning is not just something that happens when children start at school, but that there is a complex but significant relationship between home and school learning, social and behavioural factors which may affect pupil outcomes throughout primary school.  

There are important implications for the ECM agenda in that the research suggests that promoting better academic outcomes in terms of ‘added value' measures is not at the expense of social/emotional development. The findings suggest that academic effectiveness of primary schools is particularly significant in reducing the achievement gap for disadvantaged pupils in terms of raising standards and social inclusion. 

The research suggests there is a need for specialist intervention for those children who are well behind their peers academically and in terms of social and behavioural measures at the start of primary school. Schools also need to pay attention to the effects of mobility of some children, as this can also lead to greater risk of poorer outcomes.

The research will continue to follow the sample of children up to the end of key stage 3 to see if these factors are still affecting outcomes in secondary school.


Reviewed by:
Sandra Eady

Authors :

Pam Sammons, Kathy Sylva, Edward Melhuish, Iram Siraj-Blatchford, Brenda Taggart, Stephen Hunt, Helena Jelicic

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