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Growing up in Scotland

Published: 6 Oct 2015 13:03

10 year study reveals inequalities gap is narrowing.

Vocabulary among young children is improving, a ten year study has found.

Growing Up in Scotland is tracking the lives of two groups of children born six years apart (around 10,000 in total).

A report published by researchers ScotCen today compares children born in the later age group (2010/11) with those born in 2004/05. The findings include:

  • Vocabulary scores at age three are getting better – increasing by 3.5 points in lowest income group and 2.9 points in highest
  • An increase (66 to 69 per cent) in parents who looked at books or read stories with their 10 month old child every day or most days
  • Problem-solving scores at age three in the lowest income group are up two points
  • At age five, children in the highest income group were around 13 months ahead in vocabulary and 10 months ahead in problem solving ability
  • Mothers staying away from alcohol during pregnancy are up (from 74 per cent to 80 per cent)
  • Mothers smoking when their children were aged three are down (from 28 to 24 per cent)
  • Children in the lowest income group were more likely to have fair, bad or very bad health (26 per cent compared with 12 per cent of high income group)
  • 95 per cent of families receive some type of help and support from grandparents

The report highlighted factors which can help reduce inequalities regardless of income:

  • A rich home learning environment can improve cognitive development for all children, regardless of socio-economic background
  • Early learning and childcare can help to reduce inequalities in cognitive development
  • Better parenting skills help protect against the impact of adversity and disadvantage
  • Being born to an older mother makes children more resilient to a range of negative outcomes
  • The role of the health visitor, in providing one-to-one advice and support to parents, should be central to tackle inequalities in the early years

Children's Minister Aileen Campbell said:

"This report shows that we are making progress narrowing the attainment gap and reducing health inequalities but there is still more to do.

"Vocabulary and problem solving for those with the lowest incomes is getting better and more children from all backgrounds are experiencing the joy of reading at an early age.

"Our focus on encouraging parents to play with and read to their children in their earliest years though campaigns like PlayTalkRead and Bookbug appears to be having a positive impact. We hope to see more progress improving attainment through the Read, Write, Count campaign.

"Tackling inequalities sits at the heart of this Government's agenda. We were the first devolved administration focus on the early years. This research highlights what we already know - that differences in development start long before school – and looks what we're already doing to reduce them.

"High quality early learning and childcare particularly benefits those with the lowest incomes. That's why we are almost doubling the number of hours to 1,140 a year for three and four years olds and two year olds currently eligible for 600 hours. This will also support parents to work, train or study into employment and out of poverty.

"We're spending £40 million over the next five years in 500 extra health visitors because we know they pay a positive role helping mothers in challenging circumstances.

"We are determined that every child should have the same opportunity to succeed and the very best start in life."

Notes to editors

The report can be found here.

Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) is a Scottish Government funded longitudinal study tracking the lives of two groups of children from across Scotland - children born in 2004/05 and in 2010/11 (approximately 10,000 children in total).

The children in each group were selected at random from Child Benefit records and are representative of all children of these ages in Scotland.