5. Comparisons with England
5.1 Representativeness and size of the sample
The data set used for the purpose of comparison is one which was previously analysed for a report to the Department for Education, England. The cohort started in school in the Reception year, aged four, in the 2011/12 academic year. A description of the method used to establish the representative sample of children starting school in England is described in that report (Tymms et al., 2014). It comprised 6,983 children at the start of the Reception year and 5,939 children completed the follow-up assessment at the end of the school year.
5.2 On entry to school
A full picture of children in England may be found in the publication by Tymms et al. (2014). Some comparisons are drawn between children starting school in England and Scotland in the paragraphs below.
5.2.1 Early mathematics
A high proportion of children starting school in England were able to identify single digit numbers such as 6 and 9, but two digit numbers were beyond most. Similarly the question "What is two more than six?" was beyond the ability of most children at this stage. Whilst the order of difficulty of the items was very similar for children in both England and Scotland at the start of school, the children starting school in Scotland were, on average, slightly more advanced, which was partially explained by them being older at that stage. But age for age there was still a slightly higher starting point in Scotland in the order of two months of cognitive development. For more details, see Tymms et al. (2014).
5.2.2 Early reading
The early reading scores of children starting school in Scotland were normally distributed, which means that they were distributed in a bell shape: most children scored around the mean, with decreasing numbers having higher or lower scores. The scores in England were skewed with a higher prortion of children clustering at a lower level than in Scotland. Compared with England the standard deviation was smaller, meaning that the children's scores were more closely grouped together. The children in Scotland were able to identify far more letters than their English peers. This seems to be partly a reflection of them being older at the start of school but it may also reflect different values and cultures in the home, and an emphasis in pre-school. As for early mathematics, age for age, children starting school in Scotland were at a higher point amounting to approximately 4 months of cognitive development. For more details, see Tymms et al. (2014).
5.2.3 Personal and social development
Children's personal and social development was rated lower in England, with the mean score on many scales being around three, while the mean score in Scotland was around 3.5. The scale with the highest mean score for pupils in England was the social rules scale and the lowest mean score was the social cultural awareness scale. The social cultural awareness scale also had the lowest mean score for the children in Scotland. The children in Scotland were rated highly on their comfort and independence in the school setting compared with England. Again, this is partly because they were older but even taking age into account the children in Scotland had slightly higher rating which is perhaps a reflection of pre-school and home experience. But we should interpret the data with caution because of the small sample sizes and because ratings are judgments by individuals and not objective.
5.3.1 Early mathematics
The progress made by children in England and Scotland in mathematics in their first year was almost identical and did not differ statistically.
5.3.2 Early reading
The children made a little less progress in reading in Scotland than in England by about 4 months although Scotland started at a slightly higher level and age for age at the end of the year the average scores were in line with one another.
5.3.3 Personal and social development
We could not make fair comparisons between England and Scotland on the progress made in PSD because the reduced samples were not directly comparable and because the scores were starting to hit the maximum possible score for both groups towards the end of the year.
Email: Wendy van der Neut