A new study has suggested that individuals in nursery teacher jobs can help improve the future educational prospects of their poorer pupils.
Researchers from the University of Lancaster's Management School analysed the records of 15,500 people born in 1990 from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England.
They found that, among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those who received pre-school education tended to attain key stage two and three test results that were between ten and 11 per cent better than the scores of those who did not.
Moreover, at GCSE level, disadvantaged pupils who had attended nursery achieved seven per cent higher grades and were also four or five per cent more likely to attain English and Maths GCSEs at grades A*-C.
Other positive outcomes included children tending to be happier, harder working, more popular and better behaved during their schooldays.
Pre-school education also had positive ramifications for poorer pupils after they left school, with those who attended nursery also more likely to go onto university and less likely to be in neither education nor employment once they entered their 20s.
However, the researchers also found that there was a marked gender difference within the results, with girls who went to nursery going onto achieve better grades at all levels of education, whereas the improvement in results for boys was negligible.
Furthermore, pre-school education did not appear to have a statistically significant effect on the later test results of children from advantaged backgrounds
This prompted the researchers to suggest the government should consider whether to means test subsidies for nursery places, rather than making them universal.
Nursery education could therefore play a part in closing the attainment gap between poorer and better off children, with 38 per cent of pupils on free school meals achieving grades A*-C in at least five GCSEs - including in English and maths - in 2012, compared to 65 per cent of other pupils.
The government has also sought to help primary and secondary teachers to reduce this disparity with its pupil premium initiative, in which schools are allocated an extra £900 for each pupil who is or has at some stage in the past six years been entitled to free school meals.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels