Early Findings of BESSI research

The findings from research undertaken to develop and assess the reliability of the Brief Early Skills and Support Index suggest that this is a reliable tool, but also that its use has begun to provide pointers for effective interventions:

  • Interesting variations in family support were found for both affluent and less affluent families.  Differences in family support matter more than differences in income in predicting child outcomes. However, at 4-5 years of age, children who are eligible for free school meals/the Pupil Premium are, on average, about 12 months behind their peers for language and cognitive skills.  This contrast could be explained by a similarly robust contrast in family support. 
  • Fun activities at home showed real potential as an intervention point, as it was related to several child outcomes, including higher scores for language and cognition and being able to play with lots of other children.  It was associated with a significantly reduced likelihood of temper tantrums and aimless behaviour at school. 
  • Literacy skills were as strongly predicted by fun at home as by reading at home.


BESSI questionnaire – further development

BESSI was originally developed as an assessment for children at the end of their first term of compulsory schooling.  The University of Cambridge researchers suggested at the end of Phase 1 research that although the questionnaire is developmentally appropriate for reception aged children, it was likely to be also suitable for nursery aged children.  Consequently the same questionnaire was tested during 2013-14 with nursery children, in addition to further testing for the reliability of the questionnaire by staff with differing qualifications – teachers and Early Years practitioners.  In 2015 the validity of the questionnaire continued to be tested by recruiting more ethnically diverse children than those in the earlier samples.

At this stage the researchers report that ‘BESSI is a promising brief teacher/nursery staff report/screening tool that appears suitable for children aged 2.5 to 5.5 and provides a broader perspective upon school readiness than previous measures.’  See Hughes, C., Daly, I., Foley, S., White, N., & Devine, R. T. (2015). "Measuring the foundations of school readiness: Introducing a new questionnaire for teachers - The Brief Early Skills and Support Index", British Journal of Educational Psychology.