Children are ill-prepared for school, warn heads
Headteachers and practitioners warn that many children are not ‘school ready’ on starting out at primary school
Published on 11th September 2017
Head-teachers have reported that children are not ‘school ready’ when starting out at school.
Four fifths of respondents to a survey issued by the National Association of Head-Teachers and Family and Childcare Trust said that they believed that there is an issue with the school readiness of some pupils starting school.
Of those that said there was an issue with school readiness, 86 per cent believed the issue of school readiness has become worse over the past five years. Worryingly, almost a quarter (24 per cent) said that more than half of their intake was not school ready.
“School leaders and practitioners have been raising concerns with NAHT and the Family and Childcare Trust about children falling behind in the early years. Our survey finds that the majority of schools are worried about the school readiness of their youngest children,” said Ellen Broomé, Chief Executive of Family & Childcare Trust and Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT.
“The abiding message of this report is that schools and families must both be ready for each other in order for the first steps of a child’s journey through school to be successful.”
The ways in which children are not ready for school will always vary, but examples may include: difficulty communicating or with language, issues with coordination or using the toilet independently, finding it hard to form relationships, no basic understanding of numbers or sounds and having a limited understanding of the physical world and their community.
The survey of more than 700 practitioners and head-teachers found that only 11 per cent said that they did not feel this was an issue.
Four fifths of respondents who believed there was an issue with school readiness said that children who had no previous early education demonstrated the most challenging issues.
Respondents who had indicated that they believe that there is an issue with school readiness also reported a key issue that pupils were starting school with unidentified special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
Forty two per cent said that between 11 per cent and 30 per cent of their pupils not yet ready for school had unidentified SEND, 15 per cent of respondents said that more than half of pupils not ready for school had an unidentified SEND.
Many respondents raised concerns over a lack of support for parents and that issues were not being picked up early enough, meaning that issues were left unaddressed for too long and opportunities for early intervention were missed.
The report highlighted that:
- Speech, language and communication issues were of greatest concern with 97 per cent of respondents identifying this as a problem and almost half (47 per cent) saying it was the most significant.
- Two thirds (67 per cent) said one of the likely reasons children are not school ready is a failure to identify and support additional needs early enough.
- 66 per cent said that parents had fewer available resources or that there are more pressures on family life.
- Almost 9 out of 10 (88 per cent) said that funding was a barrier to improving school readiness and more than half (56 per cent) said that funding was the greatest barrier they faced.
Of those that said they believed there was an issue with school readiness, 67 per cent said there was a failure to identify and support additional needs early enough and 66 per cent said that parents had less available resources or that there were pressures on family life.
A number of respondents also highlighted through additional comment boxes their concerns over support for parents and pressures of family life. Reductions in local authority funding, reductions in Children’s Centre services and extra pressures on school budgets could be associated with the perception that there is less support for parents than before.
When asked how they are dealing with the issue of school readiness, 61 per cent of respondents said that they were using home visits prior to a child starting in reception, more than half 54 per cent said that they were engaging with health and social care services and almost half 49 per cent said they were working with local private nurseries and childminders. Such strategies have a staffing and therefore cost implication for schools and may become increasingly unaffordable in the light of the school funding crisis.
“NAHT and the Family and Childcare Trust are calling on the government to prioritise funding to support families in the early years to help set children up to learn at school and beyond. This includes additional funding for education, including early education, before children start school and renewed investment in critical services for families. These measures will help to level the playing field at the beginning of children’s education,” the report concluded.
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