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15 December 2017, 06:00 | Updated: 15 December 2017, 12:26
Primary schools should put their best teachers in reception class as children taught well in their first year achieve better GCSEs in English and maths more than a decade later, educational experts at Durham University have found.
A study of 40,000 children in England has shown that an effective start in school boosts development all the way through compulsory education to the age of 16.
Researchers from Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) measured children's reading and maths development at four, then at the end of the reception year, at seven, 11 and 16.
That allowed them to identify classes where children progressed more than average in their first year.
They then followed these children through their education and tracked the impact of an effective start to school life.
The team took account of factors that could skew results, including the sex and ethnicity of the pupils, whether they had special needs or if English was not their first language, and their social class.
The research paper concluded that the first year of school presented an opportunity to positively impact on children's long-term academic results.
These benefits were larger than when key stage one or two were taught relatively better than average, the study found.
Professor Peter Tymms who led the team said: "Good quality educational provision in this phase of a child's school career seems to have lasting benefits.
"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."
The team also looked at whether schools were effective at reducing the attainment gap between affluent and poor pupils.
They concluded there was no evidence that schools were reducing the difference in results between rich and poor children.
Mike Parker, director of the SCHOOLS NorthEast network, said: "Heads have to think carefully about how they deploy their star performers because the quality of teaching disproportionately impacts disadvantaged pupils.
"This research should also act as a catalyst to government to greatly improve the provision and uptake of high quality early years provision in less affluent areas."