The percentage of vulnerable children in Burns Lake is significantly higher than the provincial average, according to a new report by the Human Early Learning Partnership.
While the current provincial vulnerability rate for children is 32.3 per cent, 43 per cent of children in Burns Lake are experiencing vulnerabilities on at least one area of development.
Vulnerable children are those who, without additional support and care, are more likely to experience challenges in their school years and beyond.
This means that about one in three children in B.C. are starting school with vulnerabilities in one or more areas that are critical to their healthy development.
In School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes), the percentage of vulnerable childern is also higher than the provincial average, at 37 per cent. When it comes to individual communities within the school district, Fort St. James has the highest percentage of vulnerable children – 48 per cent.
The lowest school district-level vulnerability rate on the measure was nine per cent in Revelstoke while the highest was 53 per cent in Vancouver Island West.
The report also looked at neighbourhood trends, asking the question, “Are our kindergarten-aged children doing better, worse or about the same as in the past?”
Although Burns Lake has not had a meaningful change in the long-term trend, it has seen a meaningful increase in vulnerability over the past few years.
Manu Madhok, assistant superintendent for School District No. 91, said the school district supports kindergarten to grade 12 vulnerable learners through a variety of supports including meal programs, extra support in classrooms, Strong Start programs, after school programs and the hiring of counsellors and mental health staff.
“School District 91, along with other districts across British Columbia, continues to be thankful to the Human Early Learning Partnership for continuing to research and publish regional reports related to vulnerable children across the province,” he said. “These reports help inform government and community agency policy and programming specific to early childhood supports.”
The Human Early Learning Partnership is a research institute based at the University of British Columbia. It uses the early development instrument (EDI) to measure the developmental health of the kindergarten population across the province.
The EDI is a questionnaire that includes 104 questions that measure five areas, also called scales – physical health and well-being; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive development; communication skills and general knowledge.
The questionnaires are completed by kindergarten teachers for students in their classroom in February of the school year. Children whose scores fall below the vulnerability cut-off on a particular EDI scare are said to be vulnerable in that area of development.
According to the research institute, children’s development is impacted by the broad policy environment, socioeconomic conditions, family and neighbourhood characteristics, play and peers, language and literacy, early learning and care, and their overall health.
To see the full report, visit http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/maps/edi/sd/91/