A quarter of children start primary school in England without the necessary language and communication skills, a report has found.
The analysis by charity the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) also discovered a postcode lottery for school-readiness across the country. Children in the North East, North West and West Midlands rank bottom for attainment in language and communication. The North East ranks bottom for personal, social and emotional development.
And in all categories boys are underperforming compared to girls. In some categories the difference was as high as nine per centage points between boys in the North East and boys in the South East.
EIF Chief Executive Carey Oppenheim said: “Too many children arrive for their first day at primary school lacking the broad range of skills they need to reach their full potential.
“This can have damaging consequences which can last a lifetime. Especially as children with strong social, emotional and communication skills developed in childhood have a better chance of getting a good job and being healthy, than those who are just bright or clever. The gap in the development social and emotional skills between children growing up in poor and rich families begins at the age of three.”
Linda Tallent has spent 20 years working in some of the most socially deprived schools in the country both in the North East and nationwide, as a teacher, school improvement officer and now education consultant and keynote speaker specialising in early years and primary education.
She founded the Tyneside-based Learning and Training Consultancy (LTC) four years ago to bring together specialists in a wide range of areas across the Early Years Foundation Stage and primary education. Together with her associates, they provide consultancy services, run conferences and workshops and have authored a number of publications.
Linda hopes early years education in the region will be placed firmly in the spotlight at a conference organised by LTC in Newcastle on June 3 called Early Years: Love to Learn. Practitioners will be gathering from across the region to discuss what can be done to give children in the North East the essential skills they need to flourish.
The conference will also see her launch her latest project that has seen her channel her extensive experience into an innovative early intervention toolkit for teachers called the “itkit” that she hopes will transform the lives of children by ensuring they get the help they need as quickly as possible to reach their full potential.
“Systematic early intervention is key to giving children the building blocks they need for a lifelong love of learning and can transform their lives,” says Linda.
“There is no point waiting until children start school at five. We need to identify any developmental needs as early as possible and act on them as quickly as we can, with a personalised intervention programme. That is what the itkit aims to do.
“We are moving towards a culture where it is accepted that early intervention will help ensure that children are ready for school. More nursery places are being made available for two-year-olds and we need to all work together with parents.
“I hope this conference will also be a fantastic opportunity to bring early years and primary practitioners together so we can share ideas and best practice and work together to help children across the North East to reach their full potential.”
The itkit aims to equip schools and nurseries with the resources to quickly identify if any child is struggling to reach age-related expectations in the prime areas of learning: communication and language; personal, social and emotional development and physical development. Teachers and support staff are then directed to specific intervention cards that contain practical activities to assist the children in overcoming any barriers to learning.
Pupils at Battle Hill Primary school in Wallsend had fun testing out the itkit and putting the activities into practice.
Gina Parkinson, reception teacher and Foundation Stage manager at the school, said: “The children had lots of fun taking part in Linda’s activities.
“Early intervention is the key to giving children the best start in life. The itkit is an excellent early intervention tool which will help support practitioners to intervene quickly and accurately therefore enabling children to overcome any barriers to learning as quickly as possible.”
To find out more about LTC and the conference visit http://www.learningandtraining.co.uk/ .E