Publication - Research and analysis

Children's development at the start of school in Scotland and the progress made during their first school year: An analysis of PIPS baseline and follow-up assessment data

Published: 6 Jan 2016

This report shows the results of analysis on the starting points and progress of children in Scotland in Primary 1 in early maths, early literacy and non-cognitive development and behaviour.

Children's development at the start of school in Scotland and the progress made during their first school year: An analysis of PIPS baseline and follow-up assessment data
2. Introduction

2. Introduction

There is wide recognition that children's development and experience in their early years are crucial for success in later life. Their progress during the first year at school has also been shown to have long term consequences (Tymms, Jones et al., 2009). The process of development is not determined by nature or nurture alone but rather by an interaction between the two (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000; Rutter 2006). Environmental influences start at conception and a growing body of research identifies the first 1,000 days as being crucial (Black and Hurley 2014); influences which can be tackled through policy initiatives. Development in the first five years of life lays the foundations for lifelong development (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2001) and therefore, Fernald et al., (2009) suggested that "it is critical to assess children during this vulnerable period to determine if they are developing appropriately and develop interventions if children are not developing properly". Policy makers, researchers and educationalists are interested in young children's development from a variety of perspectives but a general theme which brings them together is the desire to improve children's later outcomes. This report describes a secondary analysis of existing data from the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) On-entry Baseline and Follow-up assessment. It offers a perspective for policy-makers by providing a picture of children's development when they start school in Scotland, progress during their first year at school, differences between children by age, sex and deprivation area, trends over time and a comparison of the development of children starting school in Scotland with children starting school in England.

2.1 Background to the PIPS on-entry baseline and follow-up assessment and its use in Scotland

The PIPS On-entry Baseline and Follow-up assessment is an assessment of children's developing abilities at the start of school and their progress during their first school year. It was first developed in 1994 (Tymms, 1999a and 1999b) with the aim of providing teachers with good quality information about their new intake at the start of school for formative purposes, and with a baseline from which progress can be monitored (Tymms and Albone, 2002). It takes a unique approach to assessment (Merrell and Tymms, in press) dealing with a number of difficult issues associated with work in this age range.

The assessment has been used extensively in Scotland with children at the start and end of Primary 1. Schools in Scotland have, up to now, opted to use the assessment predominantly with the support of their Education Authority and there is generally an agreement to share the data between school and authority. The data continue to be used formatively by teachers and for self-evaluation purposes by schools and authorities. A key feature of the PIPS monitoring system is that data which enable the identification of individual pupils, schools and education authorities are not made public and are not used for accountability. Upon registering to use PIPS, schools consent to their data being used on an anonymous basis for research purposes such as the present report.

2.2 The scope and structure of the report

The report begins by providing a detailed picture of children's development at the start of school in Scotland with respect to their early reading, picture vocabulary, phonological awareness, early mathematics, personal and social development.

The relationships between the areas of development outlined above and key background variables (gender, age and deprivation) are also presented.

The progress made by children in each of the areas outlined above during their time in Primary 1 is then explored by analysing data collected from the PIPS On-entry Baseline Assessment and Follow-up. This progress is also analysed against background variables (gender, age, deprivation and school attended).

The data from Scotland are then compared with children in Reception classes in England. Many schools in England use the PIPS Baseline and Follow-up Assessment at the start and end of the Reception year of primary school. The content of the assessment is the same as in Scotland although the sound files are different to accommodate different accents. Comparisons of children's development at the start of school and the progress which they make during their first year are thus possible.

Trends over time in Scotland are examined using data from three full academic years: 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. A particular focus is given to equity during this period and whether the link between progress and deprivation has been changing.


Email: Wendy van der Neut