Ensuring children are able to get the best from school is vital; not enough children are starting school with the range of skills they need to succeed – two in every five children in the capital are not ready for school aged five.
Educational attainment is one of the main markers for wellbeing through the life course and so it is important that no child is left behind at the beginning of their school life. Public Health England (PHE) has made ensuring every child has the best start in life by being ‘ready to learn at two and ready for school at five’ one of the organisations seven national priorities; published last year.
PHE London has published a report, Improving school readiness. Creating a better start for London, aimed at healthcare professionals, parents and carers, looking at the importance of school readiness, describing the situation in London, and showing how we can work together to make improvements and give all children the best start at school.
School readiness is a strong indicator of how prepared a child is to succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally. To assess how ‘school ready’ a child is, we use a measure called the good level of development (GLD). A child with a GLD at the Early Years Foundation Stage (from birth to five years old) will have reached the expected level in all the prime areas of learning. Evidence shows that those who do not reach a GLD by age five, will go on to struggle with key skills such as communication, language, literacy and mathematics.
Levels of school readiness links to educational attainment, which impacts on life chances; it has been shown to impact on health, future earnings, involvement in crime, and even death.
Early support from parents and carers enables young children to acquire the social and emotional skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for school and later life. Parents engaging in learning activities such as speaking to their baby and reading with their child are shown to have a great impact on levels of communication. A child’s communication environment is a more dominant predictor of early language than their social background; so this really is an important part of successful early development.
Some parents may not be aware, but physical activity is an important component of early brain development and learning. Communication skills depend on well-developed physical skills, such as effective movement and eye contact; however only one in every 10 children aged two to four meet the Chief Medical Officers guidelines of being physically active for at least three hours, throughout the day.
PHE strives to support the provision of parenting programmes across London, to ensure parents and carers are educated, and have the knowledge and ability to give young children the early support they require, which will go on to benefit them throughout the course of their life. Parenting support combined with high quality early education, will contribute to a child’s early learning and ability, and put them on the road to being school ready.
Investing in quality early care and education has also been shown to have a greater return on investment than many other economic development options. For every £1 invested in quality early care and education, taxpayers save up to £13 in future costs; in addition for every £1 spent on early years education, £7 would need to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence.
We want to make sure all children in London develop to their full potential and are prepared for the challenges of school and beyond. Giving all children in London the best start in life, with the resilience, confidence and personal skills to be able to learn is a priority for PHE. Through continued work with our partners and stakeholders, increasing awareness and engaging with parents and caregivers, we can increase the number of school ready children in London.
Image credit: Noun Project, Marilena Korkodilos