A Baseline Study of Outcome Indicators for Early Years Policies in Scotland
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The indicator study involved analysis of data on a range of ‘indicators’ identified in a previous feasibility study as relevant to the early years’ policy objectives. A number of indicators related to health and pre-school education were identified. However, data were not available on family functioning, parents’ ability to find employment or issues of capacity and working practices within the systems of service provision. The absence of such data implies that we cannot use existing indicators to assess if early years policies have met their objectives in relation to these issues. Analysis reveals that there have been some small improvements in health indicators since 1999 – including increased rates of breastfeeding and reduced maternal smoking. Encouragingly, these health gains appear to have been greatest among those in the most deprived groups – on which many early years’ initiatives are focused. Rates of primary immunisations have increased among the most deprived groups, while experiencing no overall change. There has been no real change in levels of infant mortality, accidental injuries or deaths, dental decay and low birth weight babies. It is too early to tell whether there have been changes in levels of obesity or under-nutrition. There has been a notable decline in rates of MMR immunisation. There has been a dramatic increase in children attending pre-school provision since 1999 and an increase in staff numbers associated with this. The highest rates of pre-school provision at age 3, are among those in the most deprived areas. A rise in attendance at Family Centres is particularly evident among those in more deprived areas, where some of these facilities have been targeted.