The Trust works to develop, implement and promote ‘life chance indicators’, which measure a child’s development against the factors which are predictive of future outcomes.  The ultimate aim is to chart the development of individual children at three stages up to when they start school at 4-5 years. These indicators will play a key role in driving policy and incentivising a focus on improving children’s life chances in the long term.

Development of Brief Early Skills & Support Index (BESSI)

The 2010 report, Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults made recommendations to reform the national poverty measures to include standardised measures of the ‘life chances’ of individual children at ages 2-3 and 5.  In 2011 the Trust commissioned Professor Claire Hughes and colleagues at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge, to research and construct a set of Life Chances Indicators for 5 year olds. The aim was to produce a tool which adopts a broad definition of school readiness and which complements the approach of existing formal child assessments with a less time consuming survey-based method.  In doing this it avoids stressful child testing and the burden on teachers or others of completing lengthy assessments.  BESSI is also distinctive in that the one page questionnaire includes assessments of child support – the home learning environment - in additional to the traditional assessments of cogitative and behavioural development.

The Brief Early Skills and Support Index is a 30 item questionnaire consisting of four scales; family support, behavioural adjustment, daily living skills and language and cognition skills.  There are two versions currently in use, one for reception age children and one for nursery age children.

The Indicators (initially the ‘Starting School Survey’) were developed with collaboration from schools across the Wirral and via a validity study in a Cambridge school.  Standardisation and testing was undertaken with 1,714 children in total.

Early findings from the research have begun to provide pointers for effective interventions.  The full Starting School Successfully report for this initial phase of research is available here