Early Pathways to School Learning: Lessons from the NT Data Linkage Study

Early Pathways to School Learning: Lessons from the NT Data Linkage Study Edited Book

  • Author(s): Silburn, S, Guthridge, S, McKenziie, J, Su, J-Y, He, V, Haste, S
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Menzies School of Health Research

Abstract: Key findings: - The study findings first and foremost demonstrate the extent to which sociocultural and economic circumstances influence all children’s early health, development and learning, and why it is essential that current efforts to improve school attendance and achievement also focus on addressing the known early determinants of these outcomes. - Findings highlight the extent to which children’s development and school learning are underpinned by their health status—particularly in early life and throughout childhood. - Addressing community-level factors, such as housing overcrowding, is likely to result in substantial improvements in school attendance, especially in very remote communities. - Improving levels of attendance at preschool offers one of the best immediately available strategies for improving the NT’s concerning rates of Aboriginal school attendance and achievement. - It is also evident that the initial benefits of preschool can easily ‘fade out’ unless they are reinforced by regular attendance and effective engagement with school learning in the early years of primary school. - The study findings are consistent with other research in identifying critical transition points in children’s school careers which are opportunities for leveraging better outcomes: a) From preschool to Year 1—especially for Aboriginal students through targeted additional learning and language support; and b) From Year 6 to Year 7—through middle school programs maintaining student engagement and retention in high school. - The overall findings strongly support the direction and potential benefits of the NT Government’s recent investment of $35.6 million over four years to implement a whole-of-government plan in collaboration with community organisations to improve early childhood services and the lives of Territorian children (Northern Territory Government 2018). They particularly validate the emphasis on developing a more integrated, place-based approach to the planning and delivery of universal and targeted services to young children and their families. - Finally, the study findings provide a baseline against which the NT Early Childhood Plan’s immediate and longer-term performance outcomes could be monitored using similar data linkage methods. Implications for future research: The study findings suggest the potential value of future research in the following areas: 1. Investigating reasons for the recent decreasing trend in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal teenage pregnancy e.g. whether this is associated with increased uptake of contraception in this age group and/or other health and social factors. 2. Investigating the implications of the declining Aboriginal total fertility rate which by 2013 was approaching the population replacement rate of 2.1 live births to women in their reproductive years. 3. Conducting qualitative studies to inform the development and evaluation of preventive public health strategies to reduce the continuing high proportion of Aboriginal women in remote and very remote areas who report smoking during pregnancy. 4. Investigating whether there are homogenous subgroups of students who share similar patterns of attendance over the course of their school career using newly available analytical methods, e.g. trajectory analysis (Nagin et al. 2010) and latent class analysis (Thompson et al. 2017; Hancock et al. 2018). This would assist in the early identification and targeted support for students at increased risk of adverse school outcomes. 5. Undertaking mixed-methods research to investigate family, community and school factors which explain why some communities have better early childhood development (AEDC) outcomes than would be predicted on the basis of their socioeconomic status. 6. Qualitative research into the child, school and curriculum factors which optimise children’s engagement with school learning in the early years of primary school. This should also include a focus on the specific learning and school adjustment needs of boys.

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Silburn, S, Guthridge, S, McKenziie, J, Su, J-Y, He, V, Haste, S, 2018, Early Pathways to School Learning: Lessons from the NT Data Linkage Study, Edited Book, viewed 28 October 2020, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=13869.

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