Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


5.3 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES, Sociology, Family studies

Publication Details

Technological University Dublin, July 2016.


This thesis considered the bio-ecological model as a research frame with which to develop policies and practice that are important for the academic development of children and young people, in Ireland. The research aimed to build on the IEA Preprimary Project by investigating the relative impact of children’s experiences at age four on their development (cognitive, social, academic, physical and language) at ages seven and sixteen, by using the data collected for the two Irish publications of the Preprimary Project and supplementing it with data collected on the academic outcomes of the original sample at age sixteen. The research questions were; What are the home, environmental and/or individual variables (at Ages 4, 7 and 16) that predict academic outcomes at Ages 7 and 16 and; How do these predictors relate to academic outcomes at Age 16? The results indicated that the adults (parents and educators) in the lives of four year olds determine their long-term outcomes. Whole group teaching and adult-centred teaching rather than child-centred teaching in the Age 4 ECEC and primary settings negatively related to children’s outcomes in the short and longer term. Maternal education was a strong positive predictor of Age 16 outcomes across most subjects. This provides support for the notion of maternal education as an intervention in, and of, itself. Better Age 16 attitude to school and being a boy predicted better Maths and Science outcomes, which underlines the importance of engaging all young people, particularly for the more traditionally “difficult” subjects. Involvement in extra-curricular activities is also supportive for many academic outcomes, which emphasizes the importance of a school/life balance for young people. Where direct relationships were absent in the current study, chains of prediction led through the developmental trajectory that coincided with participation in the early, primary and secondary education systems. Findings suggest that tackling aspects of the family environment, early childhood-, primary- or secondary- education experience will lead to better academic outcomes in the short-term for children and young people but only for the aspect that is explicitly targeted. In order to ensure more meaningful, lasting and effective academic benefits, the learning from the research is that theory and practice at the micro- and meso-level should be coupled with or extended upon by the development of effective wraparound mechanisms at the macro policy level. This research thesis confirms the need for many of the policy changes that have been introduced since 1994 in the early years, primary and secondary education sectors. However, the similarity in its findings and the findings of more recent research confirms that policy change alone is not sufficient to affect a change in practice. This thesis argues that children, families and education settings should be supported by the development, integration and implementation of theory with rights-based policy and practice in order to ensure that children succeed in the Ireland of the today, while also ensuring that they are well equipped to succeed on a lifelong journey of learning and discovery.


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