Suffolk: Importance of reading with young children highlighted as new figures show 40% of five year olds not ready for school

NEARLY 40% of Suffolk’s five-year-olds lack essential skills and emotional development when they start school, new figures have revealed.

Only 61% of children are assessed as achieving a “good level of development” by the end of reception year - often described as being “school ready” - meaning 39% significantly are behind their peers and start school life with more ground to make up.

The figures for 2011/12 are a marked improvement of 9% from the previous academic year, which show that just 52% of children were considered school ready.

Thirteen factors are used to calculate the figures, and Suffolk has seen improvements in all of them in 2011/12.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s head of education and young people, said one of the ways parents could help better prepare their children for school was through reading more at home.

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He said: “All the evidence shows that children do better at school if their parents are engaged with their learning and development from birth. Also important is access to good quality early years and childcare provision.

“We’re hugely encouraged by the significant improvement in the percentage of Suffolk children who are considered to be ‘school ready’ by the age of five. Parents will have been crucial to this, as will the consistent and concerted efforts by the county’s early years and childcare practitioners.

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“Reading with children from a young age is one of the most effective ways of helping them to learn. Parents have an enormously important role in this.”

The 2010/11 figures, which showed Suffolk well behind the regional and national average for school readiness, were in the 2012 annual report of the Director of Public Health for Suffolk.

In her report, Tessa Lindfield, director of public health for Suffolk County Council and NHS Suffolk, said development in the early years was important for children to get the most from their education.

She said: “Supporting positive social and emotional development of babies and infants through access to high-quality early learning, childcare and play opportunities also lays the foundation for developing essential communication skills which underpin learning.

“Children’s centres need to make a clear evidenced contribution to improving school readiness and in the early identification and intervention of additional needs including behavioural problems, especially for children vulnerable to poor attainment as a consequence of their socioeconomic circumstances and/or poorer parenting skills.”

Jeremy Todd, chief executive of national charity Family Lives, said all children should be able to achieve good educational outcomes “irrespective of background”.

He said: “Good engagement and communication with parents is also vital to improve educational outcomes. Many of the parents we work with have experienced a breakdown in the parent-child relationship that leaves them unable to enforce boundaries or encourage educational development.”

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