PRIMARY schools should consider putting their best teachers into reception classes, according to researchers based in the North-East.

A Durham University project found children who were taught well in their first year went on to achieve better GCSE results in English and Maths.

The study of 40,000 children in England provides evidence that a boost in development from an effective first year of school remains with children right through to the end of compulsory education at age 16.

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A team of researchers from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University, led by Professor Peter Tymms, measured children’s early reading and maths development at the start of school, age four, with an assessment called Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS).

They were assessed again at the end of the first reception year and later, at ages seven, 11 and 16.

Prof Tymms said: “Good-quality educational provision in this phase of a child’s school career seems to have lasting benefits.”

By assessing children at the beginning and end of the reception year, the team was able to identify classes where children made significantly more progress than average.

It was then possible to follow these children through their education and track the impact of an effective first year of school.

Similarly, the team identified schools in which children made particularly strong progress in Key Stages 1 and 2 and explored their long-term impacts.

The researchers took account of a range of social and economic factors that could have skewed the results including children’s age, term of starting school, sex, ethnicity, special needs, English as an additional language, deprivation and school/class membership.

The research paper, The Long Term Impact of Effective Teaching, is published in the journal, School Effectiveness and School Improvement today.

The research paper concludes that the first year of school presents an opportunity to positively impact on children’s long-term academic outcomes.

The research team also investigated whether or not effective schools were able to reduce the gap in attainment seen between children from affluent and poor backgrounds.

Prof Tymms said: “Boosts in attainment from effective classes in Key Stages 1 and 2 also had long-term benefits but not as large as those seen in the first year of school.”

“There should be a focus on the placement of high-quality teachers to ensure that all children experience an effective first year of school.”