One-in-three children not ‘school ready’ when starting primary

Nearly one in three (29 per cent) children who start primary school in England do not have a sufficient level of development to be ‘school ready’, according to analysis by education charity Teach First.

However, the figures vary between regions and communities. For example, four in ten children are not school ready in Liverpool (38 per cent) and Halton (39 per cent), but in Lewisham it falls to 21 per cent, in Greenwich it’s 22 per cent and in Richmond upon Thames it’s 22 per cent.

Highlighting the gap between rich and poor, 44 per cent of those eligible for Free School Meals were found to not be ‘school ready’ by the time they start primary school, while this falls to 27 per cent for those not eligible for Free School Meals.

School readiness means children have a good level of social and emotional development, knowledge and skills to provide the foundation for good progress through school. School readiness is assessed when children start primary school and takes into account factors including communication skills, their ability to listen or pay attention, and how they play and share with other children.

The gap between poorer and wealthier children varies across the country. More than half of poorer children in Halton (56%) and in York, Leicestershire and Cumbria (54%) start primary without being school ready.

Some of the biggest gaps in school readiness between poorer pupils and their wealthier peers are in traditionally affluent areas. York (a 31 percentage point gap) and Bath & North East Somerset (28 percentage points) have the biggest ‘school readiness’ gap between poorer and wealthier children.

By contrast, in a handful of areas in London there is almost no gap between poorer and wealthier children. The gap is just 6% Haringey and Newham, 5% in Barking & Dagenham, and in Hackney the gap is just 4%.

Russell Hobby, Chief Executive of Teach First, said: “All children start school with a different level of individual development, and that’s inevitable and normal. But it’s not right that whole groups of children are twice as likely to arrive at school behind, just because of where they were born.

“Brilliant schools and teachers are making a huge difference to help overcome this inequality and lay the foundations for a successful school journey.

“There are lots of factors at play here, but we’re convinced that the biggest difference society can make is getting brilliant teachers into primary schools across the country. That’s particularly important in areas where poorer children are starting behind.

“We encourage anyone with a passion for changing young people’s lives to consider a career in teaching.”

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