Almost half of Fraser Cascade preschoolers not ready for school

School board trustee Cope calls UBC report 'shocking'

Young children in Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope are among the least ready for school in the province, according to a recently released community summary.

The report, created through UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership, measures  vulnerability in kindergarten aged children across B.C.  While the provincial average is 32.5 per cent vulnerability, Fraser Cascade school district received a rate of 45 per cent.

“This is shocking,” school trustee Marv Cope said at this Tuesday’s board meeting in Agassiz. “Before they even get to school, they’re way behind.”

The report breaks down the vulnerabilities in an attempt to help communities focus on where to focus their energies for early childhood education. Superintendent Dr. Karen Nelson pointed out that the Early Childhood Education committee has worked hard to fill the need in the community, through successful programs like StrongStart.

The report breaks down vulnerabilities into separate scales for physical well being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills.

Fraser Cascade children are the most vulnerable when it comes to physical health and well being, at 26 per cent. However, language and cognitive skills was fairly low at 8 per cent vulnerability, and falling over previous years. That is likely due to the focus on literacy in the region, district staff said.

The numbers were different between Hope and Agassiz/Harrison, with Hope receiving a rate of 49 per cent overall vulnerability. In Agassiz/Harrison, the rate is currently 39 per cent.

Province wide, about one third of children are reportedly not prepared for kindergarten.

“It’s very worrisome,” Dr. Nelson said, and brings challenges to the school system as they help students catch up. “We’ll keep trying.”

The study has been held in ‘waves’ since 1999, with this year’s report being wave 5. Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs are listed as increasing in vulnerability, while Hope has had no critical change since the last report.

Dr. Nelson mentioned that perhaps transportation to various early education programs is one barrier to development before kindergarten. The results are based on where the children live, not where they go to school.

A total of 222 kindergarten students participated in the Fraser Cascade this year.

Finally, the report states that all environmental influences need to work together to for optimal development, from the family and neighbourhood, to the region, nation and even global environment.

To learn more about the study, visit earlylearning.ubc.ca. To learn more about local early childhood development programs, phone the school district at 604-796-2225 or Family Place at 604-796-2585.