Yesterday was a big day for us at the college. The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at NCI is close to all of our hearts because of its work with children and families from our local community in the Dublin Docklands.
These programmes generally start from age 18 but we believe that to be effective, you have to start when a person is 18 months, not 18 years. By just three years of age, there are already significant differences in the language and mathematical development of children from affluent areas and those from disadvantaged communities. The gap continues to widen if it is not addressed before children start formal education – which is why our early years’ work is so very important for tackling educational disadvantage.
It’s also important that we are able to evaluate the impact of this work and we have been working with The Children’s Research Centre at Trinity College Dublin to do just that. Over the past 4 years they have been conducting research into some of the work of the ELI. Yesterday, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ms Frances Fitzgerald TD, launched the baseline evaluation report of the Early Learning Initiative. Some of the key findings of the report include:
- The Early Learning Initiative is helping to create a high-achieving, supportive and cohesive Docklands community.
- Educational attainment in English and Maths has risen. Students are now scoring above the norms of other schools in similarly disadvantaged communities. (Example: The Early Learning Initiative’s assessments show that as of November 2011, only 30% of children in Year One of the Parent Child Home Programme could describe, with ease, a storybook picture using words or sentences. A year later more than 75% of those same children were able to perform this task.)
- Educational aspirations have risen with students in 6th class scoring higher than national norms. 84% of 6th class students in the Docklands wanted to go to college compared with 69% of 6th class students nationally.