Service providers are trying to determine why children in Ladysmith are not faring better on the Early Development Instrument, a study conducted in kindergartens province-wide that projects students’ readiness for success in school.
“It’s quite a validated and quite a useful tool,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority. “The students who are vulnerable on the EDI score tend to have problems later on.”
The latest EDI results, which can be pinpointed to specific regions, show that children in the Ladysmith area are not performing as well as expected. Socioeconomic data for Ladysmith would normally lead to better results on the EDI score.
“I do think that within the Ladysmith region there should be some concern,” Hasselback said.
The higher the rating on the EDI, the more children are vulnerable. Provincially EDI ratings average out at 30 percent; Ladysmith’s number is 40 percent. The best areas of the province achieve scores of 20 percent.
“What we’ve seen for Ladysmith specifically, is that this EDI score has continued to increase over time, and just over 40 percent of students are vulnerable,” Hasselback said.
Typically a high EDI score is associated with regions where there are also higher rates of poverty, more single income families, and more people on social assistance.
High EDI ratings are usually reflected in lower graduation rates, fewer students moving on to post secondary education, and reduced chances of ‘future wellbeing.’
What’s puzzling service providers is that Ladysmith’s socioeconomic indicators are not in line with the area’s EDI results.
“Ladysmith is actually much closer to the rest of the province or the Island when it comes to socioeconomic indicators,” Hasselback said. “Normally these are fairly closely aligned.
“It’s a signal to the area that there is something we want to do as a community.”
“We’re working with Dr. Hasselback to really dig deep and determine what is going on, because the resources are here,” said Jacqueline Neligan, executive director with Ladysmith Families and Friends.
“Looking at the numbers we’re just wondering. There’s just a big question mark as to why things are the way they are.”
In June Hasselback will be speaking with Ladysmith Early Years Partnership representatives to compare notes and begin a conversation on what the next steps should be.
“Once we get a handle on that, we can use the expertise at the table, and see who else we could be connecting with in the community to see how best we can support families,” Neligan said. “We’re looking forward to that next stage.”
Neligan expressed confidence in the community’s ability to respond. “We’re all rowing in the same direction to try and understand, and to come up with possible solutions.”