Children are less ready for school than five years ago, say school leaders

Eight out of ten school leaders report that many children arriving at primary school are not ready to take part in classroom activities. Of these, 86 per cent were concerned that children’s school readiness is worse than five years ago. The findings come from a new survey of school leaders published today by NAHT and the Family and Childcare Trust.

The most common reasons highlighted by school leaders for children not being school ready were:

  • Failure to identify and support additional needs early enough (67 per cent)
  • Parents having less available resources / pressure on parents and family life (66 per cent)
  • Reduction in local services to support families (63 per cent)
  • Reduction in local health services to support families (57 per cent)

Almost a quarter said that more than half their intake was not ready for school.

Almost 9 in 10 (88 per cent) said inadequate school funding was a barrier to improving school readiness.

School leaders highlighted particular concerns about communication skills and physical development. Speech, language and communication problems were the biggest issues with 97 per cent of respondents identifying these problems as a concern.

As the Chancellor and his team at the Treasury are making decisions about this autumn’s budget, NAHT and the Family and Childcare Trust are calling on the Government to prioritise funding for support for families in the early years to help set children up to learn at school and beyond.

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.”

Ellen Broomé, 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.”

Anne Lyons, NAHT President, and head teacher at St. John Fisher Catholic Primary School said: “With this report we are hoping to highlight the impact that cuts to public services are having on families and children. The support that families of all kinds regard as essential are being cut back or have already disappeared. Cuts to school budgets mean that it’s also getting harder to address these issues once the children are in school.”

The full report is available here.

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