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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 12:59 GMT
Parent power rivals nursery schools
Nursery group
Could mum and dad do a better job?
Parents are just as effective at teaching their young children as nursery schools, researchers suggest.

Academics from the University of Swansea found three-year-old children taught the basics of reading, writing and counting by their parents often did better than those taught in a nursery school setting.

Pre-school places
The government wants to offer free nursery places for all three year olds by 2004
For the research, three groups of three year olds - selected from a wide range of backgrounds - were given activities introducing them to numbers and reading.

The first group was given help from their parents, the second group did the activities in the context of a nursery school and the third was given no instruction at all.

The children in the first group were found to do "at least as well - if not better" than those in the nursery setting, the researchers said.

The children offered no support made the least progress, the researchers said.

It shows that there is a lot that parents can do to prepare their children for school

Dr Sine McDougall, report author
In a paper presented to the British Psychological Society in Bournemouth, the researchers concluded that parents could make a significant difference to their child's pre-school learning.

"It shows that there is a lot that parents can do to prepare their children for school," said Dr Sine McDougall, one of the report authors.

"One of the key findings was that well-structured learning - at home or in the nursery - is the key to good progress."

Free nursery places

The findings come as the government presses on to provide free nursery school places to all three year olds in England from September 2004.

Announcing more money for nursery education earlier this month, the Early Years and Schools Minister, Catherine Ashton, said: "This government believes that nursery education for all will improve the prospects and opportunities for children across the country."

"A stable and consistent early years experience for children will give their parents more choice over whether they return to work or enter into further education or training," she said.

See also:

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09 Dec 00 | Education
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04 Jul 00 | Education
Search for 83,000 child carers
06 Jun 00 | Education
Free places for all three year olds
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
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