Number of ‘vulnerable’ children entering Abbotsford schools on the rise

Teachers seeing an increase in kindergartners lacking 'emotional and social competencies'

More than one-third of children enter school in Abbotsford with some sort of vulnerability, according to a report presented to school board trustees last week.

At 35 per cent, that rate puts Abbotsford near the British Columbia average, which has risen by seven percentage points since 2009.

Kindergarten teachers assess incoming children over several months to determine whether they have the physical, emotional and communication skills to participate in class.

Cindy Romanowski, the district principal for early learning, said Abbotsford’s increase in vulnerable students seems to be mainly associated with children entering school lacking core “emotional and social competencies.”

Even before the data came back, Romanowski said “teachers were already telling us they were getting children who weren’t able to self-regulate themselves.”

To help such kids, teachers have been using “calm kits” – developed with assistance by the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre – to teach young students skills and tricks to calm themselves down and maintain their composure.

While the root of the issues can’t be known for sure, Romanowski said more parents seem to be experiencing employment issues and other financial problems and stresses.

Romanowski said the district has been proactive to help its most vulnerable children. She pointed to the subsidizing of 10 per cent of the 600 children who attend on-site preschools through the school district, as well as the creation of a new Early Years Centre at Sweeney Neighbourhood Learning Centre. That facility, the first in Abbotsford, aims to provide parents of young children with assistance and support in a range of services.

“We really hope we’ll start to see those changes in vulnerabilities as we provide more and more support to our families.”

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