Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Early learning success builds children’s wellbeing

16 October 2019

New research into early learning success builds children’s resilience, cultural connectedness and wellbeing

The foundations of early literacy success and subsequent educational achievement and healthy wellbeing are developed in the early childhood period. New research funded by A Better Start National Start Challenge advances science at international levels and addresses an urgent need to reduce inequalities in educational and mental health outcomes for Māori, Pasifika and those from low-income families.

“This research is an urgent national priority in Aotearoa, New Zealand,” says Professor Wayne Cutfield, A Better Start’s Director. “It will increase our understanding of effective interventions for children from low income families, and those from bi / multilingual family contexts, that support early learning success across languages and in ways that build children’s resilience, cultural connectedness and wellbeing,” he says.

The project is led by Associate Professor Brigid McNeill and Professor Gail Gillon at the University of Canterbury’s Child Well-being Research Institute, and is supported by Professor Angus Macfarlane Professor of Māori research at the University of Canterbury.

“This project extends the first phase of the Challenge research and builds on strong stakeholder engagement. The project will be of particular relevance to the Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, which is closely aligned with A Better Start’s vision that every child should have the best start in life,” says Professor Gillon.

The project directly addresses the Challenge’s objective of reducing the current inequalities in education and healthy wellbeing.

Māori children are four times, and Pasifika children three times, more likely than other ethnic groups to fall below the international benchmark for reading. Māori children (aged 3-14 years) and 1.8 times more likely than non-Māori to have emotional, social or behavioural difficulties, while mental illness is twice as likely for Pasifika children.

“We need to be supporting children and their whānau from the early childhood period to set a solid foundation for learning and resilience,” says Associate Professor Brigid McNeill.

The aim of this project is to investigate interventions, which are designed to accelerate word learning in 3-6 year old children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, including those children learning in Te Reo Māori and Samoan language contexts. Over 800 children and their whānau will be invited to participate in the project and will involve both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

The focus for the study is driven from community with whānau, educators and health professionals looking at how best to support children experiencing community stress, particularly in the Canterbury region. The project is aligned to other significant research projects that Professors Gillon, McNeill and their research team are involved in via the Ministry of Education, Rātā Foundation and Mana Ake.

“This project builds on previous evidence of what leads to more successful learning outcomes for young Māori,” says Professor Gillon. “It also includes priority areas of whānau engagement in children’s learning and will advance our knowledge of how children learn new words across languages such as Te Reo Māori and English.”


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Transit Of Mercury: Historic Viewing Recreated

Keen stargazers gathered at Te Whanganui o Hei, or Mercury Bay, on the Coromandel Peninsula to watch a rare astronomic event this morning. More>>


Forest And Bird: Hoiho Crowned Bird Of The Year For 2019

Widely considered an underdog, the valiant hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) has smashed the feathered ceiling to win Bird of the Year, a first for seabirds in the competition's 14 year history. More>>


Howard Davis: Very Silly Stormtroopers - Jojo Rabbit

Described as “an anti-hate satire,” Taiki Waititi's latest movie depicts the growth of a young boy in Nazi Germany who seeks advice on how to become a tough man from his 'imaginary friend' - a highly eccentric version of Adolf Hitler.

Howard Davis: Tricky Dicky - Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon

At a time when talk of presidential impeachment has once again become a political reality, there is no more apposite drama than this gripping 'true story' about the most-watched TV interview in history. More>

Scoop Review Of Books: 'the everrumble' by Michelle Elvy

This is Zettie’s tale from her birth date in 1965 through to her ‘passing’ at the age of 105. Yet, Zettie’s tale is our own tale, as humans still all-too-often hell-bent on destroying our environment and therefore our fellow creatures – and thus – symbiotically and inevitably – ourselves. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland