The Guardian is reporting warnings from a leading health expert that the future prospects of children in England are being hampered because society fails them in the early years, with children from deprived areas most likely to fall short…
Nearly half of all children in England are not ready for school when they finish reception at around age five, a failure by society that could impede their progress throughout life, a report by a health and social inequalities guru warns.
Children from more deprived areas are more likely than those from affluent families to fall short of the developmental and educational milestones set down by the Department for Education, according to an overview from Sir Michael Marmot’s Institute of Health Equity at University College London. These include being able to listen to stories, pay attention, use the toilet and dress themselves, and having started to read, write and do simple sums.
All the evidence shows children who struggle in primary school are less likely to do well later on.
“We continue to fail our children,” said Marmot. “How can this still be happening? For three years the Institute of Health Equity has published evidence showing we are failing our children. It is unacceptable that only half of our five-year-olds are achieving a good level of development.”
Two years ago, 59% of children were meeting the goals at the end of the reception year, but that figure cannot be compared to the 52% today because the government has changed the measure – and has also said that collecting the data will no longer be mandatory. That, said Marmot, is not the answer.
“We need real action to improve the lives of families, support good parenting and improve access to good quality affordable early years services. The evidence is clear; we have to get it right at the start if individuals are to achieve the best possible health throughout their life.”
Only just over a third – 36% – of children who get free school meals because of a low family income reach the targets. Closing Sure Start children’s centres, which were set up to help families in deprived areas, is “not a good way to improve early childhood development”, said Marmot.
The UK scores badly on children’s development compared with the other wealthy nations of the world, he said. In 2007, Unicef put the UK at the bottom of 21 developed countries for child wellbeing, judged on measures throughout childhood and adolescence, including infant deaths, teenage pregnancy and young people out of education, employment and training.
The UCL Institute has been tracking progress in England since 2010, when the Marmot review of the yawning gap between the health of the richest and poorest was published…
Your thoughts on Sir Michael’s report and conclusions? What do you think are the most important practical steps that could be taken to improve early years development in children from deprived areas? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…
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