Chapter 1 Introduction
One of the Scottish Government's five strategic objectives focuses on developing skills and raising achievement as a means to drive economic growth. The policy implications resulting from this report feed directly into this 'Smarter Scotland' objective as set out in the National Performance Framework (Scottish Government, 2007):
"A smarter Scotland will identify and address risks to its children, young people and families, so they can develop and flourish."
This report uses data from the Growing Up in Scotland study ( GUS) to explore children's cognitive ability, as measured by two assessments carried out at age 34 months. Two of the outcomes associated with the Smarter Scotland objective are particularly pertinent in the context of a report on children's outcomes in the first few years of life. These are: "our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed" and "we have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk". Early identification of factors that hinder children's development is critical so that effective steps can be taken to address the consequences of early disadvantage for those children affected as well as to help minimise the risk that those factors will continue to disadvantage children in the future. The joint policy statement "Early Years and Early Intervention" (Scottish Government and COSLA, 2008) set out the principles of a framework for dealing with disadvantage in Scotland by prioritising action in the early years. As will be evident from the outset, child outcomes are highly socially patterned even from the very first few days of a child's life. GUS can help to identify and quantify the variable ways in which child development is related to children's social backgrounds.
GUS is an important longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of a cohort of Scottish children from the early years, through childhood and beyond. Its principal aim is to provide information to support policy-making, but it is also intended to be a broader resource that can be drawn on by academics, voluntary sector organisations and other interested parties. Focusing initially on a cohort of 5,217 children aged 0-1 years old
(the birth cohort) and a cohort of 2,859 children aged 2-3 years old (the child cohort),
the first wave of fieldwork began in April 2005 and annual data collection from both cohorts has been undertaken since that time. 1 The analysis in this report concerns children in the birth cohort.
This report comprises four main sections plus a conclusion which address the following two questions:
Do children's early activities have an influence on cognitive development in addition to socio-demographic factors?
Do children's early activities moderate the effect of socio-demographic factors on cognitive development?
The first section (Chapter 2) outlines the cognitive ability measures used in the study and includes some discussion of previous analyses of this concept. Chapter 3 introduces the measures of children's activities and parental attitudes towards them that are used to help answer the two central questions. This chapter also presents differences by a number of socio-demographic measures. Chapter 4 outlines the relationships between socio-demographic factors, children's activities and parents' attitudes, and cognitive ability measures. The analysis concludes in Chapter 5 which examines whether there are independent relationships between both the socio-demographic factors and the activity measures and cognitive ability.
All of the statistics have been weighted by a specially constructed weight to adjust for non-response and sample selection. Both weighted and unweighted sample sizes are given in each table. All analyses have been weighted and have had standard errors adjusted to take account of the cluster sampling.