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Preparing for Life: history and overview of a social science collection in DRI

picture of child in school

Preparing For Life: New collection of interviews with Irish children, their parents and home visiting mentors

A collection of interview transcripts with parents, staff and children that participated in a school-readiness intervention in North Dublin from 2008-2015 have been deposited in the DRI as a new collection entitled: Preparing For Life. The interviews were conducted as part of a larger evaluation by Dr Orla Doyle and her team at the UCD Geary Institute of the prevention and early intervention programme Preparing For Life (PFL) which is delivered by the community organisation Northside Partnership. The programme was initially funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and has been delivered to several disadvantaged areas of North Dublin since 2008. It continues to be delivered by Northside Partnership in 2018 under the Area Based Childhood Programme.

PFL is a home visiting programme whose purpose is to improve documented low levels of school readiness in this community, primarily through providing a dedicated ‘mentor’ to each participating family. Each mentor regularly visits the family in their home and gives them information on child development and parenting, equipping them with skills and resources to ensure their child is ready for school by the time they commence their formal education. 

PFL was evaluated since its inception in 2008 over an eight-year period and the longitudinal experimental design of the project allowed the researchers to track the progress of the children and their families over six years, from the anti-natal period through to commencement at school at around five years of age. Quantitative research data measuring the outcomes of the participating children and their families is available for further research via the Irish Social Science Data Archive. The researchers have also deposited population-level, representative survey data on the levels of school readiness of all Junior Infant children in the PFL catchment area.

Qualitative interviews were conducted with staff involved in the design and roll out the PFL programme as part of a process evaluation, during the early years of programme implementation in 2009 and again in 2012. Focus groups were also conducted with participating parents (primarily mothers) in 2009 and 2013 and were especially valuable for capturing the service-users voice and their perceptions and experiences of the PFL programme. Anonymised versions of these interviews have been deposited in the DRI and can be accessed here.

In 2013-14 the researchers conducted one-to-one interviews with some of the children that had participated in the PFL programme, to capture their early school experience and their own perception of what it means to be ready for school. Thirty-six of these anonymised interviews, plus the children’s drawing from these interviews, have been deposited in the DRI as the Children's Thoughts About School collection, which can be accessed here.

The qualitative interviews from the evaluation of Preparing for Life were prepared for the archive by the Children’s Research Network Prevention and Early Intervention Research Initiative in 2018, and were published in the DRI by the Irish Qualitative Data Archive. These interviews join a larger collection of qualitative material in the Irish Qualitative Data Archive from research with contemporary Irish children and their families, including qualitative transcripts from the Growing Up in Ireland study (Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College Dublin, 2008), and children’s essays about their local area from the New Urban Living Essays collection (Corcoran, Gray and Peillon, 2002-04). All of these research transcripts and images are available for further scientific research, and given the sensitive and personal nature of these materials access is restricted to bona fide users of the materials. Interested parties should apply to the Irish Qualitative Data Archive for access.

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