Research conducted by the Department of Education has found that a third of school children in England are behind in their development by the age of 5. The study details that 31% of under-5’s lack development in the areas of communication, language, maths and social skills.
It is believed that this is an even greater problem with children who originate from deprived backgrounds; as 52% of children who receive free school meals fall behind national expectations, compared to just 70% overall. Save the Children, an international NGO (non-governmental organisation) which promotes children’s rights, has hit out at the Department of Education, claiming that this is clear evidence children are being “denied a fair start in life”. The chief executive for the organisation, Kevin Watkins, has stated:
“It’s shocking that in this day and age so many children in England, 0particularly the poorest, are at greater risk of falling behind by the time they reach school because of our chronic shortage of nursery teachers, a shortage that shows little signs of improving.”
Evidence corroborates this; in England, there is thought to be a shortage of 11,000 teachers for the particular age group, leading some to believe that this is the main source of the problem.
Nevertheless opinions vary over what the real reason for the issue could be. Sophie Higgins, a nutritional therapist from London claims to not be at all shocked by the findings- “I think it has a lot to do with how our diet is over here, so no, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
London students Sheri Chucks and Alex Hillyard likewise share this opinion- “you’d think there wouldn’t be a lack in development because there’s so much more information about their development as whole”.
They also believe it has to do with the way parents bring up children, particularly with regards to communication-“It think when they’re younger, it’s about how much conversation you have with them…I’ve got a 7 year old sister and we talk to her as though she is a grown up person, like someone our age, so she’s more advanced in the way that she speaks.”
However, the Department of Education has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that; “We are clear that high quality early education is vital in giving all children the best chance to fulfil their potential…We are determined to go further to improve quality, which is why we are doing more than ever to help attract and retain the best staff and are investing a record £6bn per year in childcare by 2020.”