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Latest data show that one in three kindergarten children still vulnerable in BC

HELP releases BC EDI Wave 8 Provincial Summary

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The latest wave (Wave 8) of Early Instrument Data (EDI) data collected by the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) shows that one in three children in BC were arriving at kindergarten vulnerable, or developmentally behind, in one or more of the core areas important to their future success. These core areas — Physical Health & Well-being, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language & Cognitive Development, Communication Skills & General Knowledge — are scales within the EDI, a questionnaire completed by kindergarten teachers for the children in their classrooms, that was developed as a “whole child” measurement, beyond traditionally measured academic skills. 

This one-in-three statistic (32.9% in Wave 8) is not new for EDI findings — Wave 8 data was collected between 2019 to 2022, and is the fifth wave in a row where more than 30% of children were within the vulnerable range. Without additional support and care, children who are vulnerable on one or more scales on the EDI are more likely to experience future challenges in their school years and beyond. 

This is also the third wave in a row where the Emotional Maturity and Social Competence scales had the highest vulnerability rates out of the five EDI scales, which is particularly concerning given that these scales measure behaviours and competencies related to the most common childhood mental health disorders. This finding is also consistent with other studies that have noted an increase in mental health concerns for children and youth across Canada. 

The differences that make a difference 

These provincial summary findings also reveal significant variability in the vulnerability rates across regions of the province, indicating that children’s developmental outcomes are influenced by where they live in the province. For example, at the school district level, vulnerability ranges from 22-72% — this signals that the need for additional supports can be drastically different for individual school districts. These data provide an important lens on the local and regional landscape of inequities related to the social determinants of health in BC that are impacting early childhood development. 

While these Wave 8 findings are cause for continuing concern about the developmental health of children in BC, it is still a stable short-term trend in comparison to Wave 7 data (collected between 2016-2019). In some ways, the stability of theses vulnerability rates is surprising given the major disruptions to daily life for a number of families caused by the pandemic. Further research will be undertaken to help us understand the relationship between these outcomes and families’ experiences during the pandemic, including deepening our understanding of the impact of large-scale social policy investments during this period. 

A more detailed breakdown of these findings can be explored in the full Provincial Summary Report

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20 years of data 

The EDI is one of many tools in the Child Development Monitoring System, a series of questionnaires used to gather data about children at various life stages, from early childhood through high school. With Wave 8 marking 20 years of EDI data collection, there is an opportunity to explore this story further — as the Monitoring System grows more robust each year, there is now significant BC-specific data available for analysis and research purposes, along with potential to analyze child development across a longer period of time. 

More to come 

While this latest report provides a summary of Wave 8 findings at the provincial level, exploring data at the community, neighbourhood and other regional levels will be available early 2023 through a new interactive data dashboard. Stay informed with all of these updates from HELP by subscribing to our newsletter. 

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