Damian Hinds: Children’s literacy and narrowing the early years gap should be a national mission

A child’s education begins long before he or she arrives in a classroom. The things they learn as infants are the building blocks that can shape their future development, including how well they do at school and later in life. Education secretary, Damian Hinds writes in Politics Home.

If a child starts school struggling to communicate and speak in full sentences, then they are already on the back foot; and on average, children aged five from a disadvantaged background are already four months behind their more affluent peers.

This becomes a millstone – if you are behind from the start, it is hard to catch up.

That is why I believe high-quality pre-school education and childcare is fundamental to social mobility and making sure everyone has the chance to realise their potential.

We have a lot of good work to build on. This government introduced 15 hours of free early education a week for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds. That is on top of the 15 hours’ free childcare offer for all three- and four-year-olds, which we doubled to 30 hours for working parents.

However, there is more to do. It is not acceptable that 28% of children finish their reception year without the early communication and reading skills that they need to thrive. My ambition is to cut that number in half over the next 10 years.

To help realise this ambition, we are investing in more school-based nursery provision in disadvantaged areas, as well as extra training for early years professionals to support young children’s early development.

It’s clear that parents can welcome a helping hand – but it’s not always easy to know where to get advice or how to access it. That’s why my department will be launching a competition to identify high-quality apps for helping with children’s development, with the aim of making these free and easily accessible. 

To achieve this, I have invited businesses, media, charities and other organisations to be part of a coalition to raise awareness and build parents’ confidence around what they can do to help their child’s early language development.

Later this year we will host a summit with the National Literacy Trust to explore ways to boost early language development and reading in the home.

We have the likes of Public Health England, as well as leading businesses including WHSmith, British Land and KPMG attending. And I’m pleased that both ITV and the BBC are also on board.

Read more Damian Hinds: Children’s literacy and narrowing the early years gap should be a national mission

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Infant, Learning, Parenting and Pre-school.


  1. Chasey Crawford Usher

    Thank you, Damian Hinds. This sounds a lot like Sure Start, a wonderful programme that the Conservative government wiped out.

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