Boys, living in poverty, poor school attendance, mother with learning difficulties, children who have a health condition themselves and born with very low birth weight are more likely to have low school readiness according to Swansea University researchers.
The study supported by the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research aimed to identify and weight the risk factors associated with low school readiness.
What is school readiness?
School readiness measures a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional readiness to begin formal schooling. Children with low school readiness need additional support from schools for learning, developing required social and academic skills, and catching up with their school-ready peers.
Whole population study
The study population consisted of 142,955 children living in Wales who completed the Foundation Phase (a curriculum for children aged 3-7 years) between 2012 and 2018. Based on linked data for an entire country over a 6-year period, this robust study was able to give a good population estimate of effects.
Researchers anonymously linked using the SAIL Databank, Welsh Demographic Service and Education Attainment data. School readiness was assessed using outcomes from the Foundation Phase assessment taken by pupils. The team analysed the data using logistical progression and decision tree models to identify and weight the risk factors associated with low school readiness.
In order of importance, the study identified, using logistical progression (a method that estimates the probability of an event occurring), the most important risk factors associated with low school readiness:
- maternal learning difficulties
- childhood epilepsy
- very low birth weight
- being a boy
- being on free school meals
- living in the most deprived area
- maternal death
- maternal diabetes
- Smoking in pregnancy
- Child hospital admissions
- Single adult household
- Many other children in the household
The team identified the most common risk factors using a decision tree method, which uses multiple algorithms to map possible outcomes.
- eligibility for free school meals
- being a boy
- absence/low attendance at school
- being a younger child (e.g., August born)
- being born with low birth weight
- not being breastfed were factors
The research also found that rising poverty and the cost of living crisis will likely result in poorer school readiness and poorer educational attainment- putting extra strain on school resources as children enter school.
Amrita, a Researcher at the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research, said: “Our work suggests that interventions which focused on boys in deprived areas, encourage or facilitated attendance in nursery in the early years, investment in early year’s childcare and promoting breastfeeding would have a significant impact on school readiness.
Interventions such as parenting programmes which supported families with learning difficulties, support when there is parental or child illness would make a significant difference for the child’s readiness for school. This could positively influence a child’s life trajectory by strengthening foundations for lifelong learning, improving health and wellbeing outcomes throughout the life course, and reducing education and developmental inequalities that persist.”
This work is funded by Public Health Wales and is part of the ADR Wales Early Years programme.