An internationally recognised means of measuring how well parents and communities are preparing children for school has been adapted for use in Scotland.
The Early Development Instrument (EDI), developed in Canada, has now been tested across East Lothian. The pilot project is being led by the University of Strathclyde's Professor Lisa Woolfson and Professor John Frank, director of the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, in conjunction with East Lothian Council and NHS Lothian.
The EDI serves as a barometer of the early years support available for children in an area by measuring five facets of child development: physical health and well-being; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive development; and communication skills and general knowledge.
A questionnaire is completed by P1 teachers for every child in their class - on a three-yearly basis - with the resulting data being presented by geographical area, to help communities analyse child development trends.
The East Lothian pilot showed that 34 per cent of P1 boys - and 20 per cent of P1 girls - had "low" scores in at least one of the five areas of development.
It is hoped the EDI could be used by councils, as well as family and health services, as a means of directing resources - such as parenting programmes - to where they are needed most.
Socio-economic status alone could not be used to target resources, stressed Professor Frank. "A key finding of this study is that we can't just assume that most children from poorer areas are less prepared for school," he said.