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Setting out to explore the effects of schooling across neurocognitive development

Have you ever wondered at what age children should start school and how schooling affects the developing brain? Do you have a child born in January or February 2015 that will be starting school in August 2019? Then you might be interested in taking part in our research study, helping us to find answers to these questions!

Entering formal schooling is a major transition in almost every child’s life. Despite the transformative nature of this experience, most countries adopt a somewhat arbitrary cut-off date to determine when a child will enter school. Many parents face the difficult decision of whether their child should enter school as soon as they're eligible, or wait another year. We're a group of developmental psychologists who are interested in finding out about the changes in the brain and in the mind of kids as a result of formal schooling.

Motivation for the study

We’re initiating a study that will assess brain functions, cognitive abilities, and academic performance across three years in children who are similar in age, but differ in year of school entrance. While all parents of children who have not yet turned five by the council’s school commencement date can choose to defer their child’s school entry, only children born in January and February are guaranteed an extra year in nursery. For this reason, our project is specifically targeting children born in January and February 2015. As we have already reached our target number of children for our deferred category, we are currently only recruiting children that will be starting school in August 2019.

Our research will have implications for school-entry policies and early classroom practices. The findings of this research will provide a basis for the discussion of whether the use of an arbitrary school entry cut-off date is desirable, and what potential alternative options there might be. Therefore, this work can help to promote equal opportunity at the school-entry level and ultimately reduce education inequality.

How it works

If your child participates, we'll visit your home and ask your child to solve a variety of game-like tasks for us on a computer. Some of the measurements will be taken using the fNIRS system. fNIRS stands for functional near-infrared spectroscopy. It is a technique that is used to measure brain activity by measuring the blood flow. This is done by shining near-infrared light through the head. This technique is non-invasive and allows more flexibility for the children, only a textile cap to be worn at the tasks. It also allows the researchers more flexibility, such as visiting your home with the portable system. Your child will always be supervised by two of our trained researchers, and the session will take roughly 3 hours (including breaks). There will be a total of 2 sessions, one every year for 2 consecutive years. Participation is entirely voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time for any reason.

Why participate?

In our experience children enjoy these sessions very much. We make it as much fun as possible for them by turning the experience into a game. Children get a glimpse into how scientific research works and are proud to be part of a research project. Your child will also receive a small fee for his/her participation. More generally, your participation will have a positive impact on children and their parents in the future. Our research team will get in touch with every parent after the study is completed to update you about the results.

Our research has the ultimate goal to help individual children learn better, solidifying the knowledge on the changes that happen during the important transition of preschool to formal schooling.

How to join

If you're interested in your child taking part in this research, please contact us or use the 'sign up for the study' link at the top of this page. Once you get in contact with us, we'll go through the details of the research with you and answer any questions you might have. If you know of any other parents that have children born in January or February 2015, please let them know of our study!

We thank you in advance for contacting us at your earliest convenience. Early entries are much appreciated as the study will be commencing in the summer.

On the behalf of our research team we would like to thank the Jacobs Foundation for bringing this project to life. Find out more about the Jacobs Foundation.

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