At PORSE you’ll often hear us talk about the importance of ‘secure attachment relationships’ or the importance of ‘being in relationship’. While it might sound like a nice warm and fuzzy statement, it’s actually based on scientific research – a finding that time and time again is supported as more research emerges on the importance of children being able to develop a connected relationship with a consistent educator or care provider, to best support early brain development. This kind of quality early childhood education (ECE) is being proven to have significant impacts on the long-term potential for a child – more so than secondary school education.
We’ve just come across this bit of research, hot off the press (December 12), conducted by Nobel Prize winner James Heckman in the ECE field in America. It’s a longitudinal study that looks at quality ECE provision and notes particularly that children can benefit from attending ECE if they come from low socio-economic environments.
The study found that “children in such zero-to-five programs are more likely to graduate from high school, less likely to be incarcerated than their counterparts who stayed home or enrolled in low-quality programs, had higher IQs and were healthier during the course of their lives.”
His key message to policy makers is that investing in funding to support children from low-income families into high-quality ECE care will have long-term benefits for the children, with the costs outweighed by the benefits. His US-based research found a return on investment from public funding of 13%.
One of his key considerations was defining ‘high quality’ ECE programmes, given this is frequently subject to debate. Heckman’s view was that “the defining characteristic of a high-quality program, more than a certain staffing ratio or training regimen, is empathetic adults who engage meaningfully with their young charges, giving them personalized attention as they grow and develop.”
“There’s no question about it that certain kinds of ‘warehouse’ activity for children — not locking them up in a closet or putting them into Romanian orphanages, but putting them into large groups of children, not even interacting — can lead to harmful consequences,” he said.
And that is why we are so passionate about the in-home care model at PORSE. With 70% of brain development occurring before the age of three, children enrolled in quality in-home education with one, consistent and caring educator are able to build secure attachment relationships, supporting brain development and creating a confident learner ready to enter the school system at age five.