Early Education as an Intervention for Children in Care

Sandra Mathers - Education in Out-of-Home Care


Many children in out-of-home care experience significant early adversity prior to entering care, resulting in poorer educational, socio-emotional and health outcomes which have implications throughout their life trajectory. While the focus is often on children’s school performance and later life chances, cracks in the foundations of learning appear early. Children in care are already behind in their language, psycho-social and neuro-psychological functioning during the pre-school years and have poorer academic and socio-emotional competence on entry to school.

Given strong evidence that attending good quality early years provision can help disadvantaged children catch up with their peers, there is a good reason to believe that the same applies for children in care. Yet relatively little is known about the potential of early education as an intervention for children in care. This chapter from the book Education in Out-of-Home Care reviews available evidence, drawing on a recent small-scale English research study. ‘Starting Out Right’ comprised a purposive review of relevant literature, interviews with a range of experts, and an online survey of English local authorities. This brief overview of study findings provides a summary of the review, followed by a case study of practice and policy in England designed to ensure that children in care have access to good quality early education, highlighting successes and areas for development to consider potential lessons for other countries.