Learning skills not affected by crèche care
Children who have attended crèches at the age of three have similar language and reasoning skills by the time they are five as those cared for at home, new research reveals today.
The findings on learning skills of 9,000 children, which were tracked over a number of years, will come as a relief to parents who experience guilt leaving their young child to be looked after by childminders, crèches or a grandparent.
But more information is needed on the quality of childcare and its impact.
The findings have emerged in the latest report of the Growing Up In Ireland, the national longitudinal study of children which looked at the cognitive development of youngsters at five.
It pointed out that some of the main influences on children's language and reasoning at five are their gender, language spoken at home, number of older siblings, parents' education, parent practices and home learning environment.
"Once their influences are taken into account, there is no difference in either vocabulary or reasoning scores at age five for children cared full-time by their parents and those who attend different forms of childcare age three," it said.
However, it stressed it did not take into account differences in the quality of childcare arrangements.
"Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that high quality care has a beneficial effect while poor quality childcare has a negative impact."
The study, to be launched today by Minister for Children James Reilly, also shows starting in childcare at an early age - by nine months - had no effect on children's cognitive outcomes at age five.
But "long hours of care - more than thirty hours a week - were associated with a small negative effect on vocabulary at age three, regardless of the type of childcare."
Reasoning abilities were not impacted upon.
Looking at the free pre-school year, it said that by age five almost all children had participated in the scheme.
Just 27pc of these were attending centre-based care at age three, showing it increased access considerably.
More than one in five parents said they would not have been able to send their child to pre-school without the free scheme and this rose to more than a third for the less well-off.
Those who availed of the scheme and had a graduate leader at the centre did better in reasoning tests.