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Younger children experience lower levels of language competence and academic progress in the first year of school: evidence from a population study.

Norbury, CF, Gooch, Deborah, Baird, G, Charman, T, Simonoff, E and Pickles, A (2015) Younger children experience lower levels of language competence and academic progress in the first year of school: evidence from a population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57 (1). pp. 65-73.

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Abstract

Background

The youngest children in an academic year are reported to be educationally disadvantaged and overrepresented in referrals to clinical services. In this study we investigate for the first time whether these disadvantages are indicative of a mismatch between language competence at school entry and the academic demands of the classroom.

Methods

We recruited a population sample of 7,267 children aged 4 years 9 months to 5 years 10 months attending state-maintained reception classrooms in Surrey, England. Teacher ratings on the Children's Communication Checklist-Short (CCC-S), a measure of language competence, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire-Total Difficulties Score (SDQ), a measure of behavioural problems, and the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), a measure of academic attainment, were obtained at the end of the reception year.

Results

The youngest children were rated by teachers as having more language deficits, behaviour problems, and poorer academic progress at the end of the school year. Language deficits were highly associated with behaviour problems; adjusted odds ratio 8.70, 95% CI [7.25–10.45]. Only 4.8% of children with teacher-rated language deficits and 1.3% of those with co-occurring language and behaviour difficulties obtained a ‘Good Level of Development’ on the EYFSP. While age predicted unique variance in academic attainment (1%), language competence was the largest associate of academic achievement (19%).

Conclusion

The youngest children starting school have relatively immature language and behaviour skills and many are not yet ready to meet the academic and social demands of the classroom. At a population level, developing oral language skills and/or ensuring academic targets reflect developmental capacity could substantially reduce the numbers of children requiring specialist clinical services in later years.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Norbury, CFUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Gooch, Deborahd.gooch@surrey.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Baird, GUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Charman, TUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Simonoff, EUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Pickles, AUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 4 June 2015
Identification Number : 10.1111/jcpp.12431
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2015 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 19 Sep 2017 14:56
Last Modified : 19 Sep 2017 14:56
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/842327

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