Publication - Research and analysis

Growing up in Scotland: early experiences of primary school

Published: 2 May 2012
Directorate:
Children and Families Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Education
ISBN:
9781780457413

This research report highlights the key findings from the Growing up in Scotland early experiences study.

126 page PDF

1.2 MB

126 page PDF

1.2 MB

Contents
Growing up in Scotland: early experiences of primary school
CHAPTER 4 THE TRANSITION TO SCHOOL

126 page PDF

1.2 MB

CHAPTER 4 THE TRANSITION TO SCHOOL

4.1 Introduction

Starting school is a major step in a child's life. Indeed, for many it will represent the most significant change to their daily lives since birth. Some children make the transition to school smoothly and cope easily with the change. Others find it more stressful which can impact negatively not only on wider aspects of their early school experience but may also have longer-term impact on their educational outcomes (Dunlop and Fabian, 2003).

This chapter explores a range of issues related to the child's transition from pre-school to primary school. These issues are explored in relation to four main concepts: parental perceptions of the child's 'readiness' for school; the child's adjustment to school in the first few months; how well they have coped with the change in learning style and environment; and activities initiated by the school and/or undertaken by the parent and/or the child in preparation for going to school.

4.2 Key findings

  • The vast majority of children were perceived by their parents to be ready for school. Children in more socio-economically disadvantaged circumstances tended to have lower perceived readiness than those in more advantaged circumstances, though differences were small.
  • After controlling for socio-economic characteristics, the key factors associated with perceived school readiness were the child's pre-school experience (time spent at pre-school), and their cognitive and social, emotional and behavioural development around the time they enter school.
  • Virtually all parents (99%) reported having done at least one activity associated with the child's transition to school. 92% had talked to their child about school, 90% had visited the school before the child started, 87% had sought or received advice and 86% had practised reading, writing and numbers.
  • Most parents (61%) had done eight or more different activities, 31% had done between four and seven, and just 8% reported doing three or less.
  • Parents in higher income households and those with higher levels of education reported a greater average number of activities.
  • 92% of parents believed that their child had adjusted easily to school. Though 22% felt that their child was happier with the way he or she learned things in pre-school.
  • Children with lower perceived adjustment were more likely to also have poorer social, emotional and behavioural development and cognitive ability.
  • The vast majority of parents (87%) thought the pace of learning at school was just right for their child, though 10% said it was too slow and 3% that it was too fast.
  • Most children (90%) were reported as either finding some parts of school work hard (41%) or never finding school work hard (49%).
  • Reports on the extent to which the child had coped with the learning transition varied, in particular, according to differences in their social and cognitive development.

4.3 Perceptions of the child's readiness for school

The notion of 'school readiness' is contentious in academic, policy and practice debates. Even amongst those who agree that such a characteristic exists amongst children, there is much discussion over whether and how it can be measured (Saluja et al, 2000). In fact, theorising on the issue of school readiness has moved beyond the child to consider issues of the 'readiness' of schools and communities (Halle et al, 2000). Perhaps the dominant position in the literature on school readiness stems from the work of the National Education Goals Panel in the 1990s (Kagan et al, 1995) which argued that a child's readiness should be considered across five domains: social and emotional development, physical wellbeing and motor development, approaches to learning, language development, and cognition and general knowledge.

The data considered in this section is based on a more general parental perception of how ready the child was for school. To measure this general perception, parents were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with five statements.

  • I was worried that [child name] would find being apart from me too difficult
  • I was concerned that [child name] would be reluctant to go to primary school
  • I felt that [child name] was able to mix with other children well enough to get along at primary school
  • I believe that [child name] understood enough about taking turns and sharing to manage at primary school
  • I was worried that [child name] was not independent enough to cope with primary school

These statements were aimed at capturing the parent's feelings about their child's readiness on a range of dimensions - the child's level of independence and how he or she would react to being apart from the parent, whether he or she would be generally reluctant to go to school and his or her social development and relationships with peers. The data were collected during the time the child was in P1 at school.

In general, ratings on all items indicate that the vast majority of children were perceived by their parents to be ready for school. As shown in Figure 3-A, only 7% of parents felt that their child was not independent enough for school, with similarly low levels worried their child would find being apart too difficult or that their child would be reluctant to go. In contrast, around 93% believed their child was able to share and mix with other children sufficiently to attend school.

Figure 4-A Percentage of parents agreeing with each readiness statement

Figure 4-A Percentage of parents agreeing with each readiness statement

Bases: Weighted = 3347, Unweighted = 3726

The individual items were re-coded and responses summed in order to create an index of perceived readiness. The index had a minimum possible score of 5 and maximum possible score of 25. The mean score on the index was 21, indicating the generally high level of perceived readiness amongst all parents, as suggested by the findings shown in Figure 4-A.

Mean scores on the index were compared across various sub-groups of interest to examine which children were more or less likely to be reported by their parents to be 'ready' for school. Girls had a slightly higher mean readiness score than boys (21.2 compared with 20.5). This complements a range of other data on GUS, as noted earlier, which indicates that girls are generally reported by their parents to have fewer difficulties related to other areas of development. Figure 4-B illustrates the differences in agreement on the individual readiness items by the child's gender. The graph indicates that, as may be expected, girls were reported to be more 'ready' across all of the items, though differences were mostly small. The largest difference was in relation in the extent to which parents believed their child would be reluctant to go to school - 19% of boys' parents agreed with this statement compared with 13% of girls' parents.

Figure 4-B Percentage of parents agreeing or strongly agreeing with each readiness statement by child's gender

Figure 4-B Percentage of parents agreeing or strongly agreeing with each readiness statement by child's gender

Bases: Weighted = 3347, Unweighted = 3726
Note: * = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01

Perceived school readiness also varied according to the child's age at school entry. Those children who were aged between 5 and 5.5 years at entry had the highest average readiness score (21.2) whereas those who were under 5 years or older than 5.5 years had similarly lower scores (20.6). Whilst a lower perceived readiness amongst parents of children aged under 5 may be expected given the younger age of the children concerned, lower perceived readiness amongst parents of older children is surprising. Those children in the oldest age group are those for whom entry has been deferred. Although differences are small, the lower readiness scores amongst this group suggest that, despite deferring entry for a year, parents of these children still hold some concerns about their child's readiness for school when compared to children in the 5 to 5.5 years age group. Whether the cohort child had a sibling of primary school age (and thus likely to already be attending school) had no bearing on their perceived readiness.

Children in higher income households, those whose parents had higher levels of education and those living in areas of lower deprivation each had higher perceived readiness scores than children in lower income households, those whose parents had lower levels of education and those living in area of high deprivation (Table 4.1). Although differences were statistically significant, they were generally small (for example, the mean score amongst children in the lowest income group was 20.3 compared with 21.6 in the highest income group).

Table 4.1 Mean readiness score by household income, parental level of education and area deprivation

Readiness score Bases
Mean SE Weighted Unweighted
Equivalised household income***
Highest income quintile 21.6 0.11 534 646
Lowest income quintile 20.3 0.20 797 596
Parental level of education***
Degree or equivalent 21.2 0.08 1206 1412
No qualifications 19.5 0.35 183 117
Area deprivation***
Least deprived quintile 21.4 0.11 647 735
Most deprived quintile 20.3 0.17 775 527

Certain aspects of the child's experience at pre-school were associated with their perceived readiness. For example, children who attended pre-school at a private or partnership nursery had the highest mean readiness score (21.3) whereas those who did not attend pre-school or who attended pre-school at a local authority nursery had the lowest scores (20.4 and 20.3 respectively). These differences may reflect the particular socio-economic characteristics of children more and less likely to be using different types of pre-school provision. Previous analysis of GUS data (Bradshaw, 2010) showed that whilst children in all groups were most likely to have attended a nursery class attached to a state or independent school, reflecting the dominant type of provision offered in Scotland, those in the higher education groups were more likely than those in the lower groups to have attended a private nursery school and those with no qualifications a Local Authority nursery school. Differences in mean readiness score were also evident according to the number of hours of pre-school the child attended per week with those who attended for 15 or more hours per week returning the highest scores. However, this is again likely to reflect the particular social characteristics of those children more likely to use pre-school or nursery provision for longer - that is children of professional, employed parents who require additional childcare on top of the statutory pre-school provision. There were no differences in readiness according to the 'duration' of pre-school education received - i.e. the time in months between starting pre-school and starting school.

Similar questions were asked of parents around the time their child started pre-school (for the birth cohort these were asked at sweep 4, when the child was aged just under 4 years old) to assess perceptions of readiness for that transition. Comparison of pre-school readiness scores with school readiness scores indicates that those children who were perceived by their parents to be less ready for pre-school also tended to have lower school readiness scores (Figure 4-C).

Figure 4-C Mean perceived school readiness score by pre-school readiness score

Figure 4-C Mean perceived school readiness score by pre-school readiness score

Perceived readiness was also associated with children's social, emotional and behavioural development and with their cognitive ability (measured at ages 6 and 5 respectively). Those children with below average readiness scores had higher mean scores on the SDQ total difficulties scale - indicating a higher level of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties - and lower mean problem-solving and vocabulary ability scores.

There is some overlap between those families belonging to the various social background categories considered and the characteristics of children in those families. For example, families where parents are more highly educated are more likely to have higher incomes and children in each of those groups are more likely to have higher cognitive ability and lower social development difficulties (Bradshaw, 2011; Bradshaw and Tipping, 2010). The analysis described so far does not identify whether each characteristic impacts on perceived school readiness independently of the other characteristics. For example, it is unclear whether the higher perceived readiness amongst children whose parents are degree-educated simply reflects the higher average cognitive ability and lower social development difficulties reported amongst those children - factors also shown to be associated with a higher perceived school readiness.

Multivariate analysis was used to determine which characteristics are related to having an average or higher than average school readiness score when holding the other, potentially confounding, characteristics constant 8 . The results are summarised in Table 4.2 9 .

Table 4.2 Statistical significance of independent associations between selected child and family characteristics and an average or higher than average perceived school readiness score

Child or family characteristic Sig.* Direction of relationship**
Child's gender (Male)
Female NS
Age at school entry (5 yrs 0 mths to 5 yrs 6 mths)
Under 5 yrs < .001 -
Older than 5 yrs 6 mths < .01 -
Household equivalised income (Lowest income group)
2nd quintile NS
3rd quintile NS
4th quintile NS
Highest income group NS
Parent's highest level of education (No qualifications)
Lower Standard Grades or VQs or Other NS
Upper level SGs or Intermediate VQs NS
Higher grades and upper level VQs NS
Degree level academic and vocational qualifications NS
Type of pre-school attended (Nursery class attached to primary school)
Local Authority nursery school NS
Private/partnership nursery NS
Other NS
Hours of pre-school per week (12 to 12.5)
Less than 12 < .05 -
12.5 to 15 < .05 -
More than 15 NS
Perceived readiness for pre-school score (Average or above)
Below average < .001 -
Classification of SDQ total difficulties score age 6 (Normal)
Moderate NS
Severe < .001 -
Vocabulary ability at age 5 (Below average)
Average or above < .05 +
Problem solving ability at age 5 (Below average) < .05 +
Average or above

* Statistical significance is presented either as 'Not Significant' ( NS) or at three levels of 'confidence' - 95% (< .05), 99% (< .01) or 99.9% (<.001).
** A plus sign (+) indicates the characteristic is associated with greater odds of having an average or above average score and a minus sign (-) indicates the characteristic is associated with lower odds of having an average or above average score. The reference sub-group is indicated in brackets. Where the variable is not significant, the direction of the relationship has not been included.

The table illustrates a number of notable findings. First, neither household income nor parent's level of education have an independent relationship with perceptions of school readiness. Instead, after controlling for these dominant socio-economic characteristics, the key factors associated with perceived school readiness are the child's pre-school experience, and their cognitive and social, emotional and behavioural development around the time they enter school. Irrespective of social background, children who demonstrated average or above average cognitive ability and those with no social or behavioural difficulties were more likely to have an average or above average school readiness score. Cognitive and social development are two aspects often used to define school readiness as noted above. This finding indicates therefore, that whilst the school readiness items used in GUS did not directly measure the child's ability or development in these domains, parental perceived readiness is closely linked to the child's cognitive and social development. Such connections may also explain why those children who were younger than 5 and older than 5 years 6 months (and thus had been deferred) at the point of entry were less likely to receive an average or above average readiness score.

Whilst there is no significant independent relationship between school readiness and type of pre-school provision attended, the findings do suggest that compared with those children who attended between 12 and 12.5 hours, those who attended for shorter or slightly longer durations were less likely to have an average or above average readiness score. Whilst it is perhaps easy to assume that children who attended fewer hours of pre-school may be less prepared for school, the same logic does not hold for the other group who attended more hours. As such, these factors may be defining two groups of children with particular characteristics not controlled for in the model and which may be driving this association, rather than demonstrating a direct relationship between pre-school duration and school readiness.

The findings also indicate that those children who had scored below average on the readiness for pre-school scale were less likely to have scored average or above on the readiness for school scale. As the items used measure similar behaviours - related to independence and social skills - this suggests that, for many of these children, the experience of pre-school education had not assisted in allaying the concerns about the child held by parents around the time they entered pre-school.

4.4 Activities in preparation for school

Schools employ a range of transitions systems designed to ease the process for children. These may include a combination of school visits - for different durations, sometimes accompanied by parents, other times not - meetings with parents, starting with the rest of the school or before or after other pupils have begun on the first day, and starting initially with half days. Aside from those school-led activities in which they are involved, parents may also seek information, or undertake activities with the child with a similar aim. These could involve finding out more information from the child's school or nursery about the transition process and the child's early period at school, teaching the child to recognise numbers or letters or talking to the child about moving to primary school.

Parents were asked whether they had done any activities, from a list provided, to get the child ready for starting school. Thirteen activities were listed - these activities are detailed in Table 4.3. To summarise the results, responses on individual items were combined into four broader groups along with an 'other' option: visiting the school; sought or received advice about preparing the child for school; practised reading, writing or numbers; and talked to the child about school.

Table 4.3 Full list and summary grouping of potential activities undertaken to prepare the child for school

Detailed activity Summary group
Visited the school without the child Visiting the school
Visited the school with the child
Found out more about what the child would learn in Primary 1 Sought or received advice about preparing the child for school
Asked nursery or school for advice about preparing child for school
Received information from the nursery about preparing child
Received information from the school about preparing child
Started teaching the child the alphabet Practised reading, writing or numbers
Practised writing letters with the child (such as his or her name)
Practised reading with the child
Started teaching child to count
Chatted to child about what school is like Talked to the child about school
Talked enthusiastically about starting school
Warned child that they would have to behave at school
Something else (please say what) Other

Virtually all parents (99%) reported having done at least one activity. The proportion of parents reporting activities in each group is summarised in Figure 4-D. As the graph shows, the most common activity was talking to the child about school, reported by 92% of parents. Around 9 in 10 parents had visited the school before the child started. Seeking or receiving advice and practising reading, writing and numbers were less common but still reported by the vast majority of parents.

Figure 4-D Percentage of parents reporting school preparation activity

Figure 4-D Percentage of parents reporting school preparation activity

Bases: Weighted = 3349, Unweighted = 3352

Parents could report more than one activity. Indeed, the majority (61%) reported having done eight or more different activities, with 31% saying they had done between four and seven, and just 8% doing three or less (Figure 4-E). The average number of activities reported, out of a possible 14, was 8.2.

Figure 4-E Percentage of parents who reported different numbers of preparation activities

Figure 4-E Percentage of parents who reported different numbers of preparation activities

Parents in higher income households and those with higher levels of education reported a greater average number of activities. For example, parents with a degree-level education reported an average of 8.6 activities compared with 7.7 amongst those with upper level Standard Grades and 6.6 amongst those with no qualifications. Whilst all parents are almost equally as likely to visit the school, key differences are evident in the extent to which parents in more advantaged circumstances are more likely to seek or receive advice, to talk to the child about school and to have practised reading, writing or numbers than are parents in more disadvantaged circumstances. The data in Figure 4-F indicate that 96% of parents with a degree-level education had talked to their child about school compared with 79% of parents with no qualifications.

Figure 4-F Percentage of parents reporting activity by parent's highest level of education

Figure 4-F Percentage of parents reporting activity by parent's highest level of education

Bases: Weighted = 3349, Unweighted = 3352
* = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01, *** = p < .001

4.5 Adjustment to school

To assess the child's adjustment to school, parents were asked how often the child had:

  • complained about school,
  • said good things about school,
  • looked forward to going to school,
  • been upset or reluctant to go.

The response could be selected from three options: more than once a week, once a week or less, and not at all. The proportion of parents who answered more than once a week or once a week or less at each item is displayed in Figure 4-G.

As the graph illustrates, most parents perceived their child to have adjusted well to school; almost all children looked forward to going and said good things about school. However, one in three children had also complained about school or had been reluctant to go.

Figure 4-G Percentage of parents saying their child did this at least once after starting school

Figure 4-G Percentage of parents saying their child did this at least once after starting school

Bases: Weighted = 3332, Unweighted = 3336

The individual items were summed to create an index of adjustment ranging from a possible minimum of 4 to a maximum of 12. A high score indicated good perceived adjustment. As suggested by the graph, scores on the index were generally high - indeed, the mean was 11 and 87% scored 10 or more. Nevertheless, some variations by child and family characteristics were evident.

Girls (11.1) had very slightly (but statistically significantly) higher average scores than boys (10.8). Children in more advantaged circumstances had slightly higher scores than those in less advantaged circumstances. For example, those living in households in the highest income group had a mean adjustment score of 11.1 compared with 10.8 amongst those living in the lowest income household.

Adjustment was associated with social, emotional and behavioural development and with cognitive development. As may be expected, children who had lower adjustment scores tended to have higher mean scores on the total difficulties scale and lower mean vocabulary and problem-solving scores. For example, as shown in Table 4.4, children who scored below average on the adjustment scale had a mean difficulties score of 9.3 compared with 6.7 for children who scored on or above average for adjustment.

Table 4.4 Mean total difficulties, vocabulary ability and problem-solving ability scores by adjustment score

Adjustment score Bases
Average or above Below average Weighted Unweighted
Mean total difficulties score 6.7 9.3 3345 3348
SE .104 .235
Mean vocabulary ability score 110.0 107.7 3280 3294
SE .371 .732
Mean problem-solving ability score 83.4 81.5 3274 3291
SE .343 .626

Note: A higher adjustment score indicates a better perceived adjustment to school

Few of the characteristics describing the child's pre-school experience were associated with their adjustment to school. There were no statistically significant differences in adjustment scores according to type of pre-school attended nor weekly duration of pre-school. However, some small differences were evident according to variations in the 'period' of pre-school education the child had received - that is, the approximate time in months between commencing pre-school education and starting school. Those children who had attended over the very longest period - of 25 months or more - had lower mean adjustment scores (10.8) than children who had attended for shorter periods of time (for example, 11.1 for those who had received up to 12 months of pre-school education).

The child's adjustment to pre-school was also related to their adjustment to primary school. Those children who had greater difficulty adjusting to the pre-school environment were more likely to have difficulty adjusting to school. Children who had a below average score on the pre-school adjustment scale scored an average of 10.7 on the adjustment to school scale compared to an average of 11.2 among children who scored above average on the pre-school scale.

Adjustment was also associated with perceived readiness. Children who had below average adjustment scores had lower mean scores on the index of readiness than those with an adjustment score at or above average (19.6 compared with 21.3 respectively). However, there was no relationship between adjustment and the volume of preparation activities undertaken with the child.

We also examined whether features of the school and Primary 1 environment into which the child was moving were associated with adjustment. Factors examined were variations, for example, in typical Primary 1 class size, the size of the Primary 1 intake or whether the class was composite or solely Primary 1 10 . The results are shown in Table 4.5.

There were very small differences in levels of adjustment according to the total number of Primary 1 classes in the intake (reflecting, to some extent, the size of the school) and in the average size of Primary 1 classes at the school. Slightly lower adjustment was reported amongst children who started schools with larger Primary 1 intakes (of three or more classes) and where the average P1 class size was larger (containing 24 or more pupils), though similar figures were also recorded for those in classes of between 16-19 pupils. Whether or not the class was likely to be composite with children at another primary stage did not have a significant association with adjustment.

Table 4.5 Mean adjustment score by selected characteristics of Primary 1 intake at child's school

Mean adjustment score SE Bases
Weighted Unweighted
Total number of classes with P1 pupils*
One 10.9 .060 792 815
Two 11.0 .042 1561 1525
Three or more 10.8 .065 795 809
Mean size of P1 class(es) in school*
Up to 15 pupils 11.0 .057 742 753
16 to 19 pupils 10.9 .066 865 836
20 to 23 pupils 11.1 .051 897 905
24 or more pupils 10.8 .073 644 655
Whether any P1 classes were composite ( NS)
No 11.0 1850 1817
Yes 10.9 1299 1332

Note: * = p < .05

4.5.1 Reasons for being upset about or reluctant to go to school

As indicated in Figure 4-G, 27% of parents said their child had, at some point since starting school, been upset about going to school or reluctant to go. These parents were asked why the child was upset or reluctant. The most common reasons given are summarised in Figure 4-H.

As the graph shows, the main reason cited was simply that the child didn't want to go. This was followed by tiredness and being reluctant to leave the parent. Around 17% of those who were reluctant said this was due to problems with other children at the school.

Figure 4-H Reason child was upset about going to school or reluctant to go

Figure 4-H Reason child was upset about going to school or reluctant to go

4.6 Managing the learning transition

Parents were asked a number of questions designed to capture how they felt the cohort child was managing the change in learning approaches and environment which occurs in moving from pre-school to primary school. Questions related to:

  • the pace of learning,
  • whether school work was found hard,
  • whether school work was found boring,
  • their perception of how the child was adapting to school.

4.6.1 Pace of learning

Parents were asked whether they felt the pace of learning at school was too fast, too slow or just right for the child. The vast majority (87%) believed it to be just right, with 10% saying it was too slow and 3% that it was too fast.

There were no statistically significant differences by child gender or household income on the perceived pace of learning. However, some small differences were observed by parental level of education. In particular, degree-educated parents were more likely to report the pace as being too slow and less likely to report it as being too fast compared with parents with lower or no qualifications (Figure 4-I).

Figure 4-I Perceptions of the pace of learning by highest parental level of education

Figure 4-I Perceptions of the pace of learning by highest parental level of education

Bases: Weighted = 3284, Unweighted = 3289

Views on the pace of learning also varied according to the child's social and cognitive development (Table 4.6). Children of those parents who reported the pace to be too fast had significantly higher total difficulties scores than children of those reporting the pace to be too slow (12.1 compared with 6.9). In addition, children whose parents said the pace was too slow had higher mean cognitive ability scores than those whose parents said the pace was too fast.

Table 4.6 Mean total difficulties, vocabulary ability and problem-solving ability scores by views on the pace of learning

Pace of learning Bases
Too fast Just right Too slow Weighted Unweighted
Mean total difficulties score 12.1 7.3 6.9 3344 3348
SE .694 .111 .277
Mean vocabulary ability score 99.6 109.3 113.1 3279 3294
SE 1.841 .371 .988
Mean problem-solving ability score 75.7 82.8 86.4 3274 3291
SE 1.033 .388 .713

4.6.2 Finding school work hard

A further question asked parents the extent to which the child found school work hard. Parents could indicate whether the child never, sometimes or usually finds school work hard or if they found 'some parts' of school work hard. Most children (90%) were reported as either finding some parts of school work hard (41%) or never finding school work hard (49%). Most of the remainder sometimes found school work hard with only 1% being reported as usually finding school work hard.

Gender differences did exist on this item with girls being more likely to be reported as never finding school work hard than were boys (52% compared with 46%). Some small differences were also evident by level of household income and parental education. However, the differences were mainly on the second response - 'sometimes finds school work hard' - with more advantaged parents less likely to choose this option. For example, as shown in Figure 4-J, 12% of parents in the lowest income group reported their child to sometimes find school work hard compared with 6% in the highest income group.

Figure 4-J Whether finds school work hard by equivalised household income quintile

Figure 4-J Whether finds school work hard by equivalised household income quintile

Bases: Weighted = 3284, Unweighted = 3289

Similar to the question on the pace of learning, there were also variations according to measures of children's social and cognitive development. For example, children reported as usually or sometimes finding school work hard had higher average SDQ scores (12.0 compared with 6.5) and lower average problem-solving (77.7 compared with 84.4) and vocabulary (98.8 compared with 111.3) scores than children who never found school work hard.

4.6.3 Finding school work boring

In addition to asking whether the child found the work hard, parents were also asked whether the child found the work boring (see Figure 4-K). Children were more likely to find school work hard than they were to find it boring. Around half (51%) said their child found at least some school work hard compared with 36% who said their child found some of it boring. Patterns by sub-group were similar to those observed in relation to finding school work hard. Boys were more likely to be reported as finding school work boring than girls (42% compared with 30%, Figure 4-K). There were also some small differences by level of household income with children in the highest income group more likely to find school work boring than children in the lowest income group (29% in the highest income group found some parts of school work boring compared with 21% in the lowest income group).

Figure 4-K Whether finds school work boring by child's gender

Figure 4-K Whether finds school work boring by child's gender

Bases: Weighted = 3284, Unweighted = 3289

4.6.4 General adjustment to learning

To gauge how well the child was adapting to the different learning environment experienced at school, parents were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:

  • [Child name's] teacher knows him well and gives him just the support he needs
  • [Child name] was happier with the way he learned things in pre-school/nursery
  • [Child name] has adjusted easily to the way they do things in school

The proportion of parents who agreed and disagreed with each statement is illustrated in Figure 4-L. As the graph shows, the patterns of agreement and disagreement vary slightly in relation to each statement. Agreement is strongest for adjusting easily - 92% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that their child had adjusted well to school. Similarly, 86% of parents felt that their child's teacher knew him or her well and gave appropriate support. Responses to whether the child was happier with the way he/she learning things in pre-school/nursery were a little more ambivalent. Whilst a little over half (52%) disagreed that their child was happier, one quarter were undecided (selecting 'neither agree nor disagree') and the remaining quarter agreed. Thus whilst most parents believed their child had adjusted well to the new learning environment and was being appropriately supported, a significant minority (22%) nevertheless felt that the child was happier with the way they learned things in pre-school.

Figure 4-L Proportion of parents who agreed or disagreed with adjustment statements

Figure 4-L Proportion of parents who agreed or disagreed with adjustment statements

Responses differed according to a range of child, family and school characteristics. The child's social development, as measured by the SDQ, in particular showed significant differences on each of the three items as shown in Table 4.7. Mean difficulties scores were highest amongst children whose parents disagreed that the child's teacher was giving him/her support, agreed that the child was happier with the pre-school learning environment and disagreed that the child had adjusted well to how things are done in school. This suggests that the child's higher level of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties may have affected their transition into the school environment. Children in the same groups - where the parent disagreed that the child was being supported, agreed that the child was happier with the pre-school learning environment and disagreed that the child had adjusted well to how things are done in school - also tended to have lower mean vocabulary and problem-solving ability.

Table 4.7 Mean total difficulties score by response to learning adjustment items

Mean total difficulties score SE Bases
Weighted Unweighted
[Childname's] teacher knows him well and gives him just the support he needs
Agree/agree strongly 7.2 .098 2775 2791
Neither 8.8 .357 364 356
Disagree/disagree strongly 9.9 .771 84 82
[Childname] was happier with the way he learned things in pre-school/nursery
Agree/agree strongly 8.6 .249 708 680
Neither 7.9 .225 813 791
Disagree/disagree strongly 6.7 .121 1723 1781
[Childname] has adjusted easily to the way they do things in school
Agree/agree strongly 7.1 .099 3045 3067
Neither 11.0 .503 164 147
Disagree/disagree strongly 12.1 .674 90 93

All differences significant at p < 0.001

There were small but significant differences by gender on the second and third statements. Parents of boys were more likely to agree that their child was happier in pre-school (23% compared with 20%) and disagree that he had adjusted well to school (3% compared with 1%). In relation to income, 60% of parents in the highest income group disagreed that their child was happier at pre-school compared with 45% in the lowest income group.

Characteristics of the P1 school intake appeared only to affect response to the first item on perceived support from the teacher with smaller year groups and class sizes producing very slightly more favourable opinions amongst parents. Agreement that the teacher knew the child well and gave appropriate support was higher amongst parents whose child attended a school with just one P1 class than amongst those where there were two or more classes (89% compared with 85%), and those where the average size of a P1 class was smaller (up to 15 children - 89%) compared with all larger class sizes (85%).


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