RPf Award 12/13 Born in Bradford:starting school

Project: Research project (funded)Internal pump-priming

Project Details


The National Institute for Health Research: Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research (CLARCH) Maternal and Child Health Group which supports Born in Bradford involves academics from the Universities of Bradford, Leeds and York and Bradford Institute for Health Research. It is an interdisciplinary team including psychologists, epidemiologists, experts in education, and health scientists. It aims to improve child health and wellbeing through the development and application of high quality research. Over the last five years, the Born in Bradford study, which involves approximately 13,500 children and their parents, has set up communities of practice for health professionals to review data collection and establish systems to improve quality of health care. The results of this work have led to important changes in health policy and practice both locally and regionally. For example, in health visiting and midwifery through the introduction of routine carbon monoxide monitoring in the antenatal period and changing processes around referrals for smoking mothers.

The first cohort of (800) Born in Bradford children started school in the last academic year (2011-2012). Health, health inequalities and literacy can be strongly linked; firstly in terms of social constructs eg. socio-economic status and ethnicity; and secondly in terms of parental characteristics and the home learning environment. Early literacy is an important predictor of later educational attainment. During that year we piloted measures to assess literacy and fine motor skills with 100 Reception pupils in five Bradford schools in conjunction with orthoptists from the Bradford Hospital Trust visual screening team. This phase extended the project into the next cohort of children starting school 2012-2013 and this funding facilitated the literacy assessments in inner-city schools in Bradford where the majority of Reception-aged BiB children were studying. This also extended the study to include all children in Reception classes in those schools, not just those already involved in the BiB project.

We proposed assessing 5,000 children in 88 schools in Bradford in the academic year 2012-2013. The schools have been chosen as they include 65% of the Born in Bradford cohort. We decided to include all children in Reception classes in these schools to prevent stigma being attached to the assessments. We proposed administering measures to determine receptive vocabulary, letter and word identification and phonemic awareness as well as child emotional and behavioural well-being. In addition researchers from the University of Leeds will lead on a measure of fine motor skills. A key feature of BiB is that Pakistani-origin children are the largest minority ethnic group in schools nationally and they will soon be over 50% of children in primary schools across Bradford. In addition it is a high-poverty city which would enable us to explore certain socio-economic variables in terms of children’s health, education and overall well-being.

The aim of the proposed study is to identify risk factors (child, parent, school and community) that can be modified to improve educational attainment and wellbeing in early childhood and identify interventions to improve these. Specific research questions include:

1.How does emerging literacy (measured by subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery tests – Revised and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale (BPVS) and visual-spatial movement (the measure for which is administered by the University of Leeds)) vary by ethnicity and socio-economic position?
2.What child and parental characteristics are associated with low and high literacy acquisition and visual-spatial movement?
3.What child and parental characteristics are associated with emotional and social wellbeing (using Strengths and Difficulties scores measured by the teacher)?
4.Are there differences in emerging literacy and visual-spatial movement between children showing socio-emotional and behavioural impairment (children who are 1 SD above the mean on the internalising and externalising subscales, and above the UK-normed threshold for total difficulty score of the SDQ) for children in different socio-economic strata and between ethnic groups?
5.What is the correlation between literacy development and visual-spatial movement tested in Reception year, the Year 1 Phonics screening and Key Stage assessments at Year 2 and 6?
6. What is the association between visual status and levels of literacy and visual-spatial movement in children (4-5 years)?

The evidence gathered will enable us to improve our understanding of how children’s emerging literacy and movement impact on their future achievement in school. It will also allow us to correlate these variables with other social and developmental factors impacting on children’s early lives: e.g. maternal depression, visual difficulties, height/weight and growth data and any available nursery and school census data. This information would put us in a strong position to apply for additional external funding to implement interventions to improve children’s attainment.

Layman's description

The Born in Bradford (BiB) project aims to improve child health and wellbeing through the development and implementation of research-calibre information systems. It is a cohort study following approximately 13,500 children since birth (born 2007-2010). The BiB children are now making their initial steps into formal education. This provided a unique opportunity for increasing knowledge of the links between education, in particular literacy, and health, including mental health and wellbeing factors. This research opportunity needed additional funding to enable us to make these links clear and thereby support applications for external grants for interventions to help children in challenging circumstances fulfil their potential.

Key findings

There have been no findings to date as the CLARCH Maternal and Health Group for Leeds, York and Bradford decided to fund continuing the project for a further year and would prefer not to announce any results until after the end of the project
AcronymBiB: Starting school
Effective start/end date1/08/1231/08/13


  • Unknown


  • L Education (General)
  • early years education
  • education and health
  • literacy
  • well-being
  • visual screening
  • fine motor skills
  • cohort study