Poorest pupils ‘should start school aged two’

Jul 14, 2015 by

By Hannah Richardson –

The poorest children should be taught in primary schools from the age of two, Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said school-based age-appropriate education could help them catch up with their more advantaged classmates.

Some 260,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education a week, but only 58% of these are taking this up.

Primary schools were best-placed to offer this education, Sir Michael said.

But currently they offer only a small percentage of the places.

In a speech in London, Sir Michael said: “Let me be clear: What the poorest children need is to be taught and well taught from the age of two.

“Children who are at risk of falling behind need particular help. And it remains my view that schools are often best placed to deliver this.”

Earlier start

He said schools had more access to the kind of specialists they may need, such as speech and language therapists, behaviour management and parenting support.

And they would be able to track children’s progress more readily.

“So put simply, we need to get more of the poorest children into primary schools earlier,” he said.

Research suggests that such children tend to do worse at school than their more advantaged classmates.

Ministers launched a scheme to offer free early education to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in England in 2013 as part of attempts to help them catch up.

But the scheme opened with a shortage of places and some 38,000 eligible children did not take up a placement.

In 2014, the scheme was expanded to cover some 260,000 children, and local authorities struggled to ensure providers could offer enough places in the right areas.

Now Sir Michael says just under half of these children entitled to such placements are not accessing them.

Dramatic increase

He also suggested health visitors, when they visited new parents and carried out developmental checks, could take a role in encouraging parents in target families to take up the offer of free childcare.

Sir Michael said the standard of care in England’s pre-schools, nurseries and childminder settings had improved markedly over the last decade.

According to Ofsted’s annual report, 85% of settings are now rated good or outstanding, compared with 78% the previous year.

The Department for Education said the number of children taking up the two-year-old offer had “increased dramatically” since its introduction and had almost doubled to 157,000.

“It is for parents to decide at what age their child should attend a childcare setting and for how long,” it said.

“We want to help parents make choices based on what is right for their family, rather than what they can or can’t afford.

“The overwhelming evidence shows high-quality early years provision gives benefits that last throughout a child’s life.”

Commenting on the report, councillor David Simmonds of the Local Government Association, said: “Many early years providers, including nurseries, childminders, and school-based settings, opt to work with their local councils, and mums and dads are seeing the results with more high quality provision becoming available.

“However, we could do so much more if some of the bureaucratic barriers preventing councils from using their expertise were lifted.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “While schools do offer many benefits, including the potential for an easier transition into reception and beyond, they are not necessarily geared up to support very young children. And teachers are not necessarily trained to teach two-year-olds.

“Many schools need to make big changes to their premises, their lunchtime arrangements and their staffing in order to provide the best care and education for two-year-olds, and this cannot happen overnight.”

Source: Poorest pupils ‘should start school aged two’ – BBC News

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