Evidence for community action : addressing inequality with the early development instrument in Scotland

Geddes, Rosemary and Woolfson, Lisa and McNicol, Stephanie and Booth, Josephine and Shivaji, Tara and Frank, John (2013) Evidence for community action : addressing inequality with the early development instrument in Scotland. In: Holland Fuse Conference: How to get practice into science, 2013-04-01.

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Abstract

Background Currently there are few means in Scotland by which geographical and socioeconomic status (SES) inequalities in child development can be measured, nor the impact of early years policies and programmes on child development be assessed at regional or national level. Our aims were: to pilot an internationally validated tool, the Early Development Instrument (EDI), to assess global development in Scottish children at school entry; and to feed results back to communities allowing local stakeholders to reflect on the effectiveness of early years’ support services and programmes, and plan further interventions that address inequalities. Methods Phase 1 was piloted with 14 Primary 1 teachers assessing a cohort of 154 children in one education district, following which the instrument was adapted for the Scottish context (Scottish Early Development Instrument: SEDI). Phase 2 was then carried out using the SEDI, and analysing data from a larger sample of 1090 participants comprising all Primary 1 children within this school district, evaluated by 68 teachers. The mean scores in each of the five developmental domains were linked to SES based on postcode categories. Results for geographic areas were mapped using GIS mapping. Findings Results suggested that the SEDI displayed adequate psychometric and discriminatory properties and is appropriate for use across Scotland. Children in the lowest SES quintiles were 2-3 times more likely than children in the most affluent quintile to score low in at least one developmental domain. Even in the most affluent quintile though, 17% of children were ‘developmentally vulnerable’, suggesting that those in need cannot be identified by SES alone. Discussion The SEDI offers a feasible means of providing communities with a holistic overview of school readiness for targeting early years’ interventions. During the next phase local community groups will utilise SEDI findings for local decision-making around services and resources. Proposed statements for debate: (1) Should practitioners (from health, education, social services etc) be provided with assistance to interpret findings from scientific studies? (2) Are there risks with providing this type of information about inequalities in child development to communities and local stakeholders?