Children starting school ‘struggling to speak properly’

The Telegraph is reporting a new survey of teachers that suggests children are starting school without the speech and language skills needed to begin learning in the classroom. 

The poll suggests that the language gap could be dragging down school results, with children finding it hard to catch up after they have fallen behind. 

According to the survey by Save the Children – part of the Read On. Get On. coalition – three quarters of primary schoolteachers reported seeing children aged four to five arriving in Reception unable to speak in full sentences, while 65 per cent said some children started school unable to follow simple instructions.

The poll of more than 500 teachers from across the UK highlights the importance of preschool education, with nearly four in five teachers suggesting that more investment in early years education would improve results. 

Only 15 per cent of teachers said they felt the Government’s current level of investment was adequate. 

Gareth Jenkins, director of UK Poverty at Save the Children, said it was time the Government recognised that nursery education was just as important to a child’s development as mainstream school.

“Without investment to improve nursery quality we’ll continue to see schools struggling to support the 1 in 4 children who arrive at their gates without the basic language and communication skills needed to read, learn and succeed at in the classroom,” he said. 

“The poorest children fall the furthest behind in communication, with 1 in 3 children on free school meals reaching age 5 without good language skills. Read On. Get On. evidence has shown that improving nursery quality has the biggest impact on helping the poorest catch up …” 

More at: Children starting school ‘struggling to speak properly’


See more on this directly from Save the Children at: Teachers Poll: Children start school struggling to speak in full sentences


Clearly a poll to support greater investment in pre-school education but what do you make of the findings?

Are you surprised at the suggestion that children are starting in reception unable to speak in full sentences, or has it ever been thus?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Parenting, Policy, Pre-school and Primary.


  1. KenBromfield1

    SchoolsImprove My education in the 1940s/50s was blighted by attitudes all too common among poor working class. Does this persist today?

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Political rhetoric over last decade or so suggests parents aren’t capable; aren’t parents just fulfilling that prophesy?

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove If you keep being told you can’t do something (even by MPs) you’ll start to believe it. Some parents now believe they can’t

  4. peterabarnard

    SchoolsImprove This is sad beyond words and shows that schools need to be more complex and flexible to meet the demand not mandated

  5. andylutwyche

    PrincesBold SchoolsImprove I’m sure, but MPs keep telling the public that they’re incapable so the public become incapable.

  6. BehaviourA

    Anyone know of research demonstrating there is a decline in speech and language skills? Or is the problem with expectation? In my experience parents are much more aware of how important it is to speak to their babies and young children and do so more than in the 60s and earlier I would guess.

    Given that most parents have to work now is there a need to look at early years education?

  7. The trouble with this survey is it doesn’t stress the proportion of children who arrive with poor language skills.  Rather it points out the proportion of teachers who have seen such children arrive.  I would think 100% of teachers have seen them at some point but without the proportion of children being given this statistic is meaningless.
    The press release says Gov’t figures reveal one-in-five children arrive at school with poor language skills; later on it says one-in-four.  Yet the headline implies it’s all children starting school.  This results in generalised comments about the inadequacies of parents especially those on ‘state handouts’.
    That’s not to say this minority of children shouldn’t be helped.  They should.  It doesn’t take a survey to reveal poor language skills are a barrier to learning.

  8. MikesuziNZ

    SchoolsImprove Welcome to my school and having them 25% of the day makes it very difficult to get them to floor standards by yr 2.

  9. LesleyEly

    SchoolsImprove Why r we surprised? Children need good quality Nursery Education until 5 yrs old. Starting ‘School’ so early is bad for them

  10. ellrhys

    SchoolsImprove Some children would be better off in boarding school to get away from indifferent parenting. Kids want attention-not money!

  11. amirshah316

    SchoolsImprove I have to state that parents must support children very early on by reading to them and creating a love for reading

Let us know what you think...