Why are children failing in the early years?

What is going on with our Early Years education system? Why is our government not doing more to redress the gap between families living in poverty and wealthier families? And why are the needs of the poorest families not met by government, year after year – to the detriment of a generation of children?

An article by Save The Children (February 2017) gives the somewhat troubling information that: “The UK Government’s early years statistics released today show that one third of all children (more than 200,000) are falling behind by the time they start primary school.” Further to this it goes on to explain that statistics reveal that those children living in poverty are yet again the hardest hit by a huge margin. “…there has been no improvement over the last year in reducing the gap in early development between the poorest children and their wealthier peers: half (46%) of all poor children failed to reached a good level of development last year, compared to just over a quarter (28%) of better-off children.”

Once more it seems that problems in the Early Years education sector are deprioritised – ignored even. How are these appalling statistics going to be changed for the good when Early Years faces a massive deficit in qualified teachers? Save The Children go on to inform us that: “Meanwhile, only 654 people started Early Years teacher training courses last year, far short of what is needed to address the shortage of more than 11,000.”

I don’t know about you – but in my mind this is setting our children up to fail. How on earth can they be given the learning and the skills to ensure that they enter the reception stage ‘school ready’? This question is also asked by the Chief Executive of Save the Children, Kevin Watkins, who states: “Every year, hundreds of thousands of children without access to these teachers are starting reception struggling to speak full sentences, follow basic instructions, and learn subjects like maths and sciences. But the consequences won’t end there – we know that children who start behind are more likely to stay behind throughout their lives, with huge implications for the rest of their schooling, their jobs, and even their future relationships.

“This isn’t right – we are robbing children of opportunity and denying them a fair start in life. Every child – no matter what their background – deserves the chance to reach their full potential. If the UK government is truly serious about creating a country that works for everyone, it must give all children the support they need by investing in an early years teacher in every nursery across the country.”

There is some controversy over whether having a qualified teacher in a nursery has any effect on children’s outcomes, but in Save The Children’s ‘Untapped Potential’ report (November 16) it is claimed that children without an Early Years teacher are almost 10% less likely to meet the expected levels of development when they start school compared to children who do have a qualified teacher.

In my experience, there are so very many skilled practitioners who, although not qualified teachers, do an amazing and effective job in preparing children for school. Indeed, a parent of a child at the last nursery at which I worked (he didn’t have a qualified teacher), and who has this year started reception, had this to say to me, “We didn’t realise how much the nursery had prepared Max compared to others in his reception class. Max knows how to count to 100 – with a little guidance – and could spell his name and Mummy and Daddy. The reception teacher also told us that she was impressed with Max’s elocution and vocabulary.” (Thanks Rachel!)

There may always be a difference of opinion as to whether children are best served in nursery by qualified teachers. In my opinion, early years teachers can make a huge difference – especially in helping children who are struggling. They are specifically trained in raising standards and in improving learning in specific areas, i.e. communication/maths. This may be vital in helping children from the poorest families.

It remains a fact that more than 200,000 children in England are falling behind developmentally by the time they START Primary School. That is shocking in this day and age and in a developed country. As parents and educators, we need to be more proactive in ensuring the best for our children.

Follow me on Twitter – Jo FitzGerald@TinySponges  and follow the wonderful incentive by concerned parents who presented a 300,00-signature petition to Downing Street this month #bigfutures.

You can use this postcode tool to find out how many nurseries in your area have an early years teacher and how that ranks nationally.

Here are my 5 ‘Cut It and Keep It!’ tips for you…


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