Learning Years

(aimed at children aged 3-5, parents and early childhood service providers)

The Learning Years Service ran from 2009 - 2016,
unforunatley the Service ceased in June 2016



A number of key pieces of evidence underpin the Learning Years strategy. The evidence is drawn from a range of empirical studies and other international research:

  • Quality pre-school provision improves child outcomes

Quality early childhood care and education has a positive impact on the cognitive and social development of young children and an impact on their later learning, employment and earning prospects. The quality of early years provision is important. Programmes are shown to have more impact if they have an emphasis on educational experiences directly delivered to the child.

  • Children who experience disadvantage benefit particularly from quality pre-school provision.

Quality pre-school provision benefits all children and evidence indicates stronger effects for children who are exposed to risk and disadvantage. Early years interventions can narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and other children in terms of cognitive development, as well as social and behavioural development. Providing quality early childcare and education services therefore has the potential to alleviate some of the negative effects of poverty for children.

  • Curriculum is fundamental to quality

The rigorous implementation of an evidence-based curriculum is a key mechanism to assure quality in early years care and education. Centres which put particular emphasis on literacy, maths, science/environment and children's diversity are associated with promoting better outcomes for children in their subsequent academic attainment. Research has also found that settings strong on the intellectual aspects of the curriculum tended to be strong on the social/behavioural aspects of curriculum. The High Scope curriculum is underpinned by extensive evidence and a comprehensive suite of implementation supports. High Scope is associated with positive outcomes for children in the short and long term. High Scope is based on an active learning approach whereby children learn through direct hands-on experience with people, objects, events and ideas.

  • Interactions with children and staff qualifications are core to quality provision

Warm interactive relationships with children are a key indicator of quality, as is the level of qualification of the staff team. There is a close relationship between the skills and training of staff and ratings of quality. Children have been shown to achieve better outcomes in pre-school centres where staff had higher qualifications, particularly if the manager was highly qualified.

  • Professional development of training accompanied by coaching and mentoring is associated with improvements in quality

In the context of the implementation of the Learning Years service in Ballymun, research has demonstrated progress in the quality of service provision associated with a training, coaching and mentoring model with evidence of quantifiable improvements across multiple domains of quality in preschool settings. These improvements are over and above those that are recorded in settings where only training was delivered. This data is supported by strong evidence of progress with the Siolta Quality Assurance Process with significant improvements in settings' self-assessment between baseline and final measurement points, independently verified by external validation.

  • Early years services can also support the home learning environment

A home learning environment which supports children's learning and development throughout the early years has a powerful influence upon child development. Early years professionals have an important function in supporting parents and caregivers in relation to child development.


Integration of HighScope & Siolta

Five of the seven settings engaged with the Learning Years are engaged with both strands of the programme i.e. implementation of both the Siolta QAP & implementation of the HighScope curriculum.

It is extremely important for settings that Siolta & HighScope is approached in an integrated way in order to have the best possible opportunity for successful implementation and to lead to lasting quality. It is crucial that this happens in a way that settings can see and experience connections between HighScope & Siolta at both a theoretical and practical level. Both of the Learning Years coordinators work closely together to ensure an integrated approach. Read more about integration...