Earlier this term, we announced that we have received official sign-off from the Department for Education that Dulwich Prep London is now able to open a provision for two-year-olds! This is wonderful news and marks an exciting next step for the school, not just because we can now support the very youngest in our community but also because it represents a growing recognition of how important those early years are for ‘school readiness’ and future academic success.
The new provision for our two-year-olds will open in one of the existing purpose-built rooms on our Early Years site. The classroom opens out onto its own outdoor area, and children will have access to all the facilities onsite. Whether that is trips to the woodland, enjoying bespoke PE and gymnastics in the hall or a range of different music lessons from specialist teachers. The children will benefit from all that makes Early Years at Dulwich Prep London so special, ensuring they have the richest learning environment to facilitate their development supported by well-trained practitioners.
The ever-growing research advocating for the importance of Early Years is one of the key reasons why we have decided to embark on this new venture. We know there is a relationship between a child’s experience from birth to Reception-age and the subsequent capacity for learning later in life (Smith, 2000). This is because the majority of synapse connections within the brain necessary for processing are formed during those first four years (Beigi, 2021). In particular, it is suggested that a child doubles their synapse connections between the ages of two and three, resulting in twice the number of connections compared to that of an adult (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000). Consequently, we, as a school, want to become part of this crucial development for the child and be able to facilitate and support this cognitive growth.
We have also kept a close eye on the growing research stemming from the impact of COVID-19 on children’s experience of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). We know that nationally, the lockdowns in 2020 and the subsequent reduced opportunities for some children had a noticeable impact on their development. Interestingly, however, where children continued to attend an Early Years setting, their outcomes remained protected (Davies et al., 2023). Whilst it is important to stress that attending ECEC is not the only way to guarantee strong outcomes for children, the research is a reminder of the potential impact good settings can have on child development.
Ultimately, as a school, we believe in giving parents ‘choice’, and whilst our biggest entry point will remain Nursery (3+), we are excited that opening a two-year-old provision will enhance our offering to parents. In keeping with our school aims of academic excellence, we remain confident that this stimulating environment, which will combine child- and adult-led play with carefully scaffolded instruction, will allow all children to excel and help them become ‘school ready’.
Dr Christopher Halls
Head of Early Years
- Beigi, R. (2021). Early Years Pedagogy in Practice: A Guide for Students and Practitioners. London: Routledge.
- Davies, C., Kong, S., Hendry, A., Archer, N., McGillion, M. and Gonzalez-Gomez, N. (2023). Sustained benefits of early childhood education and care (ECEC) for young children’s development during COVID-19. Journal of Early Childhood Research. pp. 1-20.
- Shonkoff, J. and Phillips, A. (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Academies’ Press. Available at: From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development |The National Academies Press. Last accessed 22.09.2022.
- Smith, A. (2000). Accelerated Learning in Practice. London: Bloomsbury.