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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, D; Baird, G; Charman, T; Simonoff, E; Pickles, A; (2016) 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. 10.1111/jcpp.12431. Green open access

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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.

Type: Article
Title: Younger children experience lower levels of language competence and academic progress in the first year of school: evidence from a population study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12431
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12431
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Social Sciences, Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Psychology, Developmental, Psychiatry, Psychology, Relative age, language impairment, behaviour problems, academic achievement, Relative Age, Impairments, Disorder, Birth, Childhood, Diagnosis, Season
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10048032
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