All over Britain reception class teachers are faced with children who have not been taught the bssic social skills before they reach first school. Typically, about a third of all kids begin school without being able to speak in full sentences, use the toilet alone, hold, let alone read, a book. In fact, two in every five have not reached an adequate level of development to benefit from school at all. These kids start at a disadvantage and struggle later academically. Their health is worse and they stand a good chance of falling into crime.
It is a truism that every pound spent on a child in the earliest years will be repaid sevenfold. These children will not have another first-ever schoolday, and are being failed through no fault of their own. The ridiculous thing is that the teachers know precisely how to help, but are hindered by incompetent parents.
One vital thing is for parents to talk and to read to their children. They seem to think that it is solely the job of the school to bring up their children – no! Studies suggest that children from low income families have, by the age of three, heard an average of 30 million fewer words than those from higher income families. Talking and reading to children are both activities that are strongly associated with language development and are a vital part of bringing up a child. If there are no books in the house and the parents have their own problems reading to their children, then it is both the kids and the parents who need help. Parenting has a bigger influence on a child’s life chances in the early years. than education, wealth or class. Teachers are taught to teach, and shouldn’t have to show a child how to handle a pen, hang up a coat or observe the conventions of simple conversation.
Britain has a comprehensive pre-school programme, but all too often it’s a case of “warehousing” the kids with inexperienced babysitters. The answer seems to be to train these people better, pay them better, and ensure that all kids start on an even playing field. The trouble is the local authorities are starved of funds and the Tory government either doesn’t care (they’re alright, Jack) or won’t raise the taxes for such an important cause. (inspired by an article by Philp Collins, The Times, August 24,2018)