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An assessment of ‘school readiness’ in London children, carried out by Public Health England, has judged only two in every five pupils as showing a ‘good level of development’ at the age of five.
Looking to highlight the level of inequality in the capital, the organisation highlights a number of factors that are impacting severely on the upbringing of London’s youngest generations.
These include poor individual circumstances and family income, but also acknowledge gender and ethnicity as being an issue.
Regional director for PHE London, Dr Yvonne Doyle, said: “The first five years of a child’s life, the foundation years, are absolutely critical; healthy early child development is fundamental to school readiness, which can have a major impact on a child’s life chances.
“We want to make sure all children in London develop to their full potential and are prepared for the challenges of school and beyond.
“Effective parenting is a key element in maximising children’s opportunities in life and PHE strives to support the provision of parenting programmes across London.”
Research shows that children who fail to achieve a good level of development by five years of age go on to struggle in a wide range of key abilities, including literacy and numeracy, physical and social skills.
Paediatrician and child health lead for PHE London, Dr Marilena Korkodilos, hopes that the results connect with parents as well as early years professionals.
She said: “We have produced this report to further educate healthcare professionals, parents and carers about the importance of school readiness, to show what interventions can improve a child’s levels of development and what can impact on it.
“We hope our work will contribute to helping give all children in London the best start in life with the resilience, confidence and personal skills to be able to learn.”
The Pre-school Learning Alliance’s chief executive, Neil Leitch, echoes these sentiments, saying, “The first five years of a child’s life are vital to their long-term development, and so it is very encouraging to see that the proportion of children achieving a good level of development improved across all London boroughs in 2013/2014. That said, the fact that two out of every five London children – and in some boroughs, nearly half – are not achieving a good level of development by age five remains cause for concern, and the report is right to highlight the crucial importance of engaging with parents as a way of supporting children’s early learning and development.
“It is particularly critical that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds are given adequate early support, and given this, it’s notable that the majority of London boroughs, including several areas of high deprivation, have seen better than average outcomes in relation to the proportion of children receiving free schools meals achieving a good level of development. Going forward, we would hope that approaches to early learning and development that have proven effective in supporting children from deprived backgrounds will be shared across different boroughs – and local authorities across the country as a whole – to help ensure that all children, regardless of background or where they live, are given the best possible start in life.”