During the CFCS interviews the parents were asked why they had enrolled their child in a pre-school setting and what they felt their children might have gained from attending a pre­ school. Both of the families whose children did not attend had initially tried to get a pre­ school place for their child, but either none was available or it was too complicated to combine logistically with the family routine. However, both mothers felt they had provided their children with sufficient educational experiences at home to prepare their child for starting school. They had for instance helped their child practice the English alphabet, and both children had an older sister who would help them. For almost all parents, the question had not been if their child would attend a pre-school but rather when they would start. Particularly for low SES parents pre-school was just something children automatically enrolled in at a certain age:

It‟s just a thing that you had to do, you had a go to pre-school. He had to go.

Everybody had to do it. Mother of Richard, boy, Group 2 (low SES, attainment as

predicted).

For working mothers some form of childcare was necessary during work hours. For the (low SES) mothers who stayed at home pre-school was often a way to get a break from their role as full-time parent and to give them time to deal with difficult family circumstances. The majority of parents, regardless of their SES, felt that pre-schools offered children the opportunity to learn to socialize, a skill that would help them once they started school. However, parents with successful low SES children and high SES parents also stressed the importance of pre-school for preparing their child for the more intellectual side of school. In their opinion, pre-school offered a chance to get used to school routines and rules and provided opportunities to further develop basic literacy and numeracy skills. The low SES parents of children „succeeding against the odds‟, in particular, felt that pre-school offered their child something in addition to what they at home were able to offer.

I‟ve always been of the opinion that children cannot learn everything from home, so they have to mix with other children, especially for the first one. She was the first child and it was only me and dad and we wouldn‟t necessarily have the kind of vocabulary to speak with her, you know, talk like all her peers will have in school. She needed that social interaction. I went to a pre-school as well in Nigeria and we‟ve always known of the advantage of that plus the fact it gets the children out of the house and you can go and do your own thing (laughs). It was a gentle way of getting her into school without all the hassle and we called up, as I was working part- time then, only the days that she goes to nursery, so it sort of like served two

purposes. Mother of Ife, girl, Group 1 (low SES, attainment higher than

predicted).

Parents, and to some extent students, from the successful low SES group looked back on the pre-school period as a positive experience that had been valuable for later academic achievement. For the majority of the girls and nearly all boys references were made to how the pre-school setting had helped them develop socially, cognitively and in some cases had helped them develop a positive attitude towards school and learning.

They learn how to interact with other children... definitely, erm... and I think they do pick up a... it... slowly... gets them into going to proper school, rather than just shove „em in.. .into school full-time, and then you‟re, “oh my god”, you know, they slowly learn... because it‟s very few hours to start with, and then they increase it until they go to proper school, so they do... and I think they do teach them a lot, they teach them songs and... urm... well they teach them things that you wouldn‟t believe that they‟re teaching „em. „Cos they do it all through play to start with, in nursery. Mother of Martha, girl, Group 1 (low SES, attainment higher than predicted).

They were happy about the way the pre-school setting communicated with the parents but even more so they mentioned the pleasant atmosphere created by staff that made children feel at home and provided them with a wide range of playful learning experiences.

This positive perception of the value of pre-school education might have been indicative of a more general positive attitude to school and learning. Although parents often chose to enrol their child in a particular setting for pragmatic reasons such as convenience or availability and costs, they did evaluate the suitability of the setting. They did not, however, actively select a particular pre-school with the aim of getting their child in to an affiliated primary school as was the case for quite a few of the high SES parents. As such, these high SES parents showed „concerted cultivation‟ child rearing as they were already carefully planning the educational career of their child trying to make sure that the best schools would be available to their child (Allatt, 1993; Vincent & Ball, 2006).

Yes his brother had not been able to get into it and had gone somewhere else and then got into Bury at the Reception class… hmmm so yes it is obviously because his brother was there it was easier and the two at the same place and it is a very popular school. Because of the Head Mistress I think really– she has quite a strong

personality and you know, it‟s kind of oversubscribed hmmm quite you have to live quite close in the catchment area and John just got in and then just because Alex was in the Nursery class did not automatically mean we will get a place in reception but he did and I think you know, by that time we established kind of a relationship

with other parents of kinds…. Mother of Alex, boy, Group 3 (high SES, attainment

In document Performing against the odds: developmental trajectories of children in the EPPSE 3 to 16 study (Page 70-72)