Yesterday, National College of Ireland welcomed the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD to an event which celebrated the results of the Docklands Numeracy Project over the past three years.
The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at NCI has been working on improving the Maths skills of young children (0-6 years) through the programme, funded through the National Early Years Access Initiative.
Over the course of the Docklands’ Early Numeracy Project, more than 1000 children in primary schools and Early Years Care and Education Services in the Dublin Docklands, together with their families, have taken part in fun, numeracy based activities like climbing, exploring, describing and playing with a variety of different shaped toys and objects. This type of activity helps familiarise children with the skills required for success in Mathematics at school.
A local evaluation of the project has found that it’s definitely working - with children's numeracy skills improving over the three years of the programme. The key is starting work with children, families and communities as early as possible – early intervention between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old can be transformational in bridging the educational gap between social classes.
An assessment tool, developed by Terri Lalor as part of her Masters in Special Education in UCD, was used to evaluate the level of competency exhibited by pre-school children in the mathematical domain.
The results found:
- A significant improvement in the numeracy concepts and skills of the sample of pre-school children in the Docklands, who were now performing on a par with those in a South Dublin Middle Class sample.
- Standardised test results from the Docklands primary schools show that children in 2nd class (age 7 years) in these schools are scoring to, if not above in some cases, national norms in Maths.
- Parents are also significantly more engaged in their children’s development and learning is being perceived by children and their families as enjoyable, and something to be shared.
- Early Childhood Care and Education practitioners reported that their teaching methodologies had changed and communication around numeracy with colleagues, parents and other services had improved as a result of the programme.
The event also launched 'The Money Tree', a story book written by children under 6 years old from the Dublin Docklands area, as part of the Docklands Early Numeracy Project.
Dr Josephine Bleach, Director of the Early Learning Initiative at NCI, said:
“Over the last three years, thanks to funding from the NEYAI*, the Docklands community has learnt so much about supporting children’s mathematical learning through talking, playing and reading with our children.
We have seen a marked improvement in the numeracy skills of children aged 0-6 years in the Docklands, and are extremely grateful to the NEYAI funding which has made this possible.
However, the Dublin Docklands is only one of Ireland’s many disadvantaged communities – our vision is that in time, we can act as Centre of Excellence from which other communities can learn, with models of best practice developed and used across Ireland to address systemic issues in early literacy and numeracy.”