The Early Childhood Care and Education Programme of the Childhood Development Initiative is a 2-year programme targeted at children and their families in Tallaght West. The programme consisted of the following components: direct provision, over the course of 2 years, of a low-cost, flexible and broad-based curriculum; minimum qualifications of FETAC Level 5 in childcare or equivalent for childcare workers and degree in childcare or equivalent for senior childcare workers; Early Years practitioners worked a 37-hour working week, allowing for non-contact planning and paperwork and home visit time; Practitioner:child ratio of 1:5, which is more favourable than the national comparison of 1:6 or higher for a similar service; observation of children's learning to enable practitioners to develop child-centred follow-up work plans in collaboration with parents during home visits; provision of nutritious food, physical play and recreation
The final report of this evaluation addresses the baseline, mid-phase and end phase findings for the whole sample of children, parents and childcare services. This research was designed as a cluster randomised trial, an experimental method by which social units or clusters (in this case, Early Years services) were randomly allocated to intervention or control groups.
Researchers first assessed children at the beginning of Early Years service provision (baseline) when they were aged at least 2 years and 6 months. Assessments focused on children's cognitive and language attainment on a range of standardised instrument subscales. Children were rated on their social skills at this time by their parents and their key worker.
The findings show modest gains for the CDI Early Years Programme compared to the control group in a number of areas across different elements of the intervention. The strongest of these related to the quality of the curriculum and activities provided in intervention Early Years services. In terms of outcomes for children, gains were indicated in areas such as improved behaviour and social skills, child attendance, and better speech and language prognosis on entry to school.
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