Increase in number of children ‘not ready’ to start school

New statistics released this week suggest that children starting school are more than ever before likely to lack basic skills such as speaking effectively or even using the toilet.

The School Ready? Survey, conducted by the NAHT Head Teachers’ union, revealed that of the 780 Head Teachers surveyed, 86% say that reception children are less likely to be ready to take part in classroom activities than they were five years ago; and almost a quarter of Heads said that more than half their reception class were ‘not ready’ for school.

The most common difficulty highlighted in the survey was the speech and communication skills of children – such as describing what they need – with 97% of Head Teachers agreeing that this was a particular issue.

Other areas of concern were also identified, such as personal, social and emotional development (being able to interact with classmates), which 94% of heads believed was an issue and the physical development of children, such as toilet training, was a concern for 78% of those surveyed.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said: “We want to see extra money for education, including early education before children start school and renewed investment in critical services for families.”

“Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.”

Other areas of concern included:

  • Failure to identify and support additional needs early enough (67%);
  • Pressure on parents and family life (66%);
  • Reduction in local services to support families (63%);
  • Reduction in local health services to support families (57%).

However, almost 90% of Head Teachers attributed school funding as a barrier to improving school readiness.

Ellen Broome, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Four-fifths of school leaders said that children who had no previous early education demonstrated the most challenging issues.

“There is strong evidence that early education can help to boost children’s outcomes and narrows the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers – but only if it is high quality. The government must make sure that every child can access high-quality early education and that parents can get the right support to help them to give their children the best start in life.”

From September 2011, all children have had the option to start school in September after they turn four instead of the term in which they turn five – which had previously been the practice in many local authorities.

A government spokesperson said: “High quality early education is vital to ensure every child is able to achieve their full potential. That is why we are investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 – more than ever before – in childcare and early education.

“The proportion of childcare providers rated good or outstanding remains at a historic high and it is our ambition to raise the status of the profession and spread quality around the country so that all children will get the best start to their education.”

Original article published on the TES website: www.tes.com

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