posted on Aug. 10: $1M for chair of Early Child Development


Dan Offord, director of the Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk (CCSCR), would like to see every child in the province enter school ready to learn.

Offord and his colleagues came closer to this dream yesterday when the Minister Responsible for Children, John Baird, presented a cheque for $1 million to establish a chair in Early Child Development. McMaster University will match the provincial government's gift.

The money comes from the Early Years Challenge Fund, established as a result of the recommendations of the “Early Years Study”, co-authored by Dr. Fraser Mustard, a former dean of medicine and vice-president of health sciences at McMaster.

Baird noted that McMaster's proposal was “one of the most innovative” and commended the centre for being a “superstar” in the area of early child development.

The centre has developed an Early Development Instrument that measures the abilities of Kindergarten students in five general areas: physical health and well-being, social knowledge and competence, emotional health and maturity, language and thinking development, and general knowledge and communication skills. The information will then be used to determine where schools and communities have been successful and where improvements are needed.

Magdalena Janus, a research associate at the CCSCR worked with Offord to develop the instrument for the “School Readiness to Learn Project”. She describes the instrument as a survey with more than 100 questions that would be done by junior and senior kindergarten teachers, 5 or 6 months into the school year.

The chair of Early Child Development will lead the CCSCR in training schools and communities on how to use the Early Development Instrument.