Further push needed despite rise in number of five-year-olds in Suffolk being ‘ready for school’

Horringer Pre-school

Horringer Pre-school - Credit: Gregg Brown

The percentage of children in Suffolk who are “ready” for school by the end of reception was praised last night – but education chiefs have admitted work still needs to take place to bump up the numbers.

Etillie Jack and Steph Page at Horringer Pre-School

Etillie Jack and Steph Page at Horringer Pre-School - Credit: Gregg Brown

Data seen in the county’s 2014 public health report shows 59% of children are achieving a ‘good’ level of development by that time – the national average is for 2014 is 60%.

The development of a child is based on a range of factors including their physical development and ability to understand words and communication.

The latest figure is a significant 10% increase on the 2013 number.

Suffolk County Council bosses have said early years education in Suffolk is now on an upward curve but have said that there is still a need to boost the number of youngsters falling short of “good development”.

Alison Manning, head of early years and child care at the authority, said: “We are 1% lower than England and we know we have got a lot of work to do still because we believe our children are at least as good as all England.

“It is about how we enable children to demonstrate what they can do because that is essentially what the assessment is.

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“What we usually mean by school readiness is about the child having the skills and knowledge necessary for success in school and later learning and in life.

“What it isn’t is about children being able to read necessarily at the end of reception – it is about them being able to demonstrate having the right skills so that they can be able to read.

“Some children will be able to read at the end of reception and other children will not be quite there yet.”

The assessment is made throughout a child’s early education and it is then “summed up” at the end of the reception – it is not done through tests.

Examples of what assessors look at include children taking turns when playing with toys, being able to read short sentences and be able to talk about different places.

The report has highlighted a number of initiatives available in Suffolk, including children’s centres and library services, to help improve the development of children in school.

In terms of library services, projects such as Tot Rock and Storytime have been singled out as they help provide children with practice in areas including rhythm.

Krystal Vittles, Suffolk Libraries Innovation and Development Manager, said: “Suffolk Libraries are already playing a role in the early lives of children and we are committed to ensuring every child in Suffolk has the opportunity to access high quality books and activities as we know there is a significant link between reading and life outcomes.

“Children’s book borrowing increased last year and there is a wide range of activities for children and families round the year. Virtually every library runs regular Bookstart activities including ‘Baby Bounce’ and ‘Tot Rock’ sessions which are enjoyed by thousands of young children and families across the county.”

There are a number of other services available to parents and free entitlement for early education and childcare of 15 hours each week for 38 weeks.

But Mrs Manning said parents also have a vital role to play themselves in their child’s development and that if their children are prepared early enough, that will bode well in later life.

“It is very much about ensuring children are ready for learning and about enabling children to have the necessary skills for the next step in their learning and development,” she said.

“Most children will have been in early years provision before they go into reception so will already have a lot of learning and a lot of skills under their belts even before they go into school.”

She added: “If we are focusing as early as possible on ensuring children get the best start to life we would anticipate this would be sustained in the future.”