Preparing minority ethnic children for starting primary school: Integrating health and education

Author(s): Chowbey, Punita;   Garrick, Ros;   Harrop, Deborah;  

Corporate author: Sheffield Hallam University

Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 35

Publisher: Race Equality Foundation

Publication date: March 2015

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               Preparing minority ethnic children for starting primary school: Integrating health and education
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The Marmot Review (2010) recommends that investment should be made into interventions targeting the early years, as it is believed this is where the greatest impact can be achieved. The review specifically recommends support for transition between home and primary school as this is highlighted as a period which may be particularly challenging for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Emanating from this perspective and focusing on children up to 5 years old from minority ethnic backgrounds, this paper draws on findings from a small study with foundation stage minority ethnic children, their parents and school teachers in a northern city in England, together with relevant literature to identify issues in transition of minority ethnic children to primary school. Such an approach is necessary to reduce ethnic inequalities in both education and health related outcomes (Dyson et al., 2009).

Key messages:

  • Minority ethnic children in England are growing in number but are significantly disadvantaged in terms of the socio-economic status of their family and their educational and health outcomes. All minority ethnic groups except Indians have higher rates of poverty than the majority population (Hansen et al., 2010).
  • Poor health is a risk factor for weakened capacity in early learning. Equally, improving education can also reduce the prevalence of health inequalities. A positive emotional and physical context in school supports academic success and also leads to improved health outcomes.
  • Positive home environments and parenting can help children prepare for starting primary school. However, informal learning at home requires an awareness of educational tools and materials which, more often than not, will require financial investment. This can be an issue for children from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly those who have migrant parents who lack English language skills.
  • Transition between home and primary school is highlighted as a period which may be particularly challenging for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The effects of disadvantage are cumulative and it is suggested that initial academic patterns are the most powerful predictors of eventual academic outcomes.
  • There is a need to move beyond a home and school focus in addressing inequalities and to raise questions about the role of wider educational policies such as age of entry to primary school, the purposes of the entry class and assessment policy. These policies shape children’s identities as learners at the start of primary school.
  • There is a need for more research that explores the impact of ethnicity, disadvantage and gender on childhood health and educational inequalities and the mechanisms through which these inequalities become established and are exacerbated.

Sections:

  • Introduction
  • The status of ethnic minority children in England
  • Integrating health and education for better educational outcomes
  • Transition to primary school
  • The policy context
  • Conclusion