The ‘lost generation’ of Leeds pre-school children

The Yorkshire Evening Post is reporting on what it calls a lost generation of young Leeds children who are turning up to their first day of school unable to feed themselves, still wearing nappies and many of them speaking no English at all…

Experts say huge numbers of children – many from the city’s poorest backgrounds – are “slipping through the net” of mainstream services for the vital first few years of their lives, leaving them struggling to play catch-up from the start.

New statistics reveal Leeds is languishing at the very bottom of a league table of 152 educational authorities when it comes to early years development.

Primary school teachers say they are “teachers not trainers”, but are “left to pick up the pieces”. Now Leeds council bosses have put an action plan in place…

Wide-ranging research among the city’s primary schools by education bosses has revealed a high number of children, aged four or five, who are at very low stage of development, with many coming in to their first year of school with nappies on, unable to eat with a knife and fork and many speaking no English at all…

The teacher, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s shocking, but I do think it’s becoming more difficult…

She said the increasing number of children from Eastern European backgrounds, many of whose parents don’t speak English either, are particularly vulnerable, as are many children from single parent and lower-income families.

“It all contributes,” she said. “It puts extra pressure on teachers, especially when you teach a class of 33, and often there is just one teaching assistant.”

She said earlier “intervention”, and better, cheaper and easier to access pre-school provision, were vital to giving children a better chance when they reach the school gates…

Leeds council bosses say the nature of the changing and growing population of Leeds brings “particular challenges”, and they have put an action plan in place to deal with an acknowledged problem.

Coun Judith Blake, the council’s children’s services lead, said the department has now put together a raft of measures to tackle the delayed child-development issue head-on.

Key to this, she said, was the council’s decision to keep all of its children’s centres open at a time when many other major cities are closing theirs.

The new action plan includes an ‘Early Start’ programme working with health staff and targeting youngsters aged zero to two. “We have got a big programme to get families to engage and we have qualified teachers in our children’s centres,” she said. “We want to focus on the quality of provision for kids. It’s an enormous challenge, but we are determined…”

More at: The ‘lost generation’ of Leeds pre-school children

Thoughts on this report from Leeds? Although the city seems to be particularly badly affected, is the situation similar around the country? And are things actually getting worse or are we just paying more attention? Please give us your opinion in the comments or via Twitter…

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