‘Things are poorer than ever before’: Headteacher says as poll finds fewer kids starting education are school-ready

28 February 2024, 19:37 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 21:49

Headteacher says situation in schools is 'worse than ever before'

By Jenny Medlicott

A headteacher has said the situation in education is ‘worse than ever before' as new data shows that children’s school-readiness has declined.

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Teachers are having to spend 2.5 hours of their day, on average, helping children who are not developmentally ready for Reception, according to a report by early years charity Kindred2.

It found that 39% of children in Reception struggle to hold a pencil, 37% are unable to dress themselves, 25% do not have basic language skills and 24% are not toilet trained.

Speaking to LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, headteacher Steve Marsland said the situation has worsened drastically in the last few years.

Asked if the situation in schools is serious, he said: “Children can’t eat properly either before they come to school, communication skills are poor, poorer than they’ve ever been.

“When you’re reading out those statistics, our position is even worse than that, 75% of our children are coming in well below where they should be or what the national expectation is for children - from toileting to early communication and language skills, it’s got worse”.

The report found that 50% of school staff believe issues with school readiness are worse than in September 2022.

It comes after Labour caused a divide earlier last year after setting out plans for supervised toothbrushing in schools as part of its policy to solve the problems in NHS dentistry.

Read more: New figures confirm 1 in 4 children are not toilet trained by the time they start school - why are we so surprised?

Read more: 'Scandalous': Schools chief says they are providing children 'three meals a day', including 'packed dinner'

Mr Marsland said of the proposed policy: “We’ve always shown children how to brush their teeth, I don’t know where the hoorah is about that to be honest.

“We’ve always been given packs by like, Colgate, we always got pack with the tables that show whether you’ve brushed your teeth or not and children get taught.”

Asked about the impact of children’s lack of readiness for school day-to-day teaching, Mr Marsland said: “It impacts on the economics of the school because monies have to be moved because it’s a necessity, we have to get more staff into our early years department because you can’t have one teacher going to change a child because of safeguarding issues.”

He continued: “How to toilet themselves, how to look after themselves, how to eat with a knife and fork, how to communicate, how to share - all of these things have got steadily worse and historically, I can put my hand up and say it has got much, much worse.”

The report polled 1,000 primary school staff, but a parallel report that surveyed the same number of parents found that 91% thought their child was school-ready.

A Department for Education spokesperson said of the report’s findings: “We recognise that children’s early years are crucial – which is why we are providing a package of training, qualifications and expert guidance for early-years workers, which includes support for them to improve children’s speech, language and communication skills.

“Parents can also access support to help with their child’s development via the government’s family hubs and Start for Life programme. This is part of our £300m investment to transform services for parents, carers, babies and children in 75 local authority areas across England.”

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