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Childhood Development

Can provision of health, developmental and educational assessments help ensure all children in the Tamaki area are healthy, socially, emotionally and developmentally when starting school?

Dr Alison Leversha
Auckland District Health Board

What is the problem?

Good education predicts good health, and disparities in health and in educational achievement are closely linked. Maori and Pacific children and youth are disproportionately represented in both adverse health and educational achievement statistics. Recent work in the Starship school health clinics in low decile schools in the Tamaki area, has identified health and developmental concerns for many of the children.

Educational professionals report poor health as a key reason only 80% of children attend a kindy, kohunga or language nest prior to starting school, compared to 97% nationally. School principals also cite poor health as a contributing factor to poor school attendance and difficulties engaging with learning.

What does the research entail?

In view of the concerns that poor health is having a significant negative impact on whether a child is developmentally ready to start school as well as how well they do whilst at school, Starship Community Paediatrician Dr Alison Leversha is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, local principals, the Manaiakalani Education Trust and the Tamaki Regeneration Company on a new initiative.

This collaboration, funded by Cure Kids, will provide health, developmental and educational assessments for all 400 five-year-old children starting school in the Tamaki community during 2016. The Starship team will also work with a local NGO which supports vulnerable families to identify and attend suitable early childhood care and education centres (ECECs).

What are the desired outcomes of this project?

Health will now play a role in the early engagement process thus reducing the adverse effects of poor health on educational attendance and achievement. The goal is to ensure all children in the Tamaki area are healthy, socially, emotionally and developmentally ready to start school, and are in the best possible position to learn. This collaboration and intervention will have implications for national roll-out of educational and health interventions targeting vulnerable children and families.