More than a quarter of children starting primary school are unable to communicate in full sentences as concerns grow about the amount of time they are spending in front of screens, the education secretary will say in his first major speech on social mobility.
Damian Hinds is expected to say on Tuesday that he wants to harness technology so parents can do more to help their children’s early language development.
The education secretary promised to halve within a decade the number of children lacking the required level of early speaking or reading skills. His department’s figures show that 28% of four- and five-year-olds do not meet communication and literacy levels expected by the end of the reception year.
“It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school not able to communicate in full sentences, not able to read simple words,” Hinds will say. “This matters, because when you’re behind from the start you rarely catch up. Your peers don’t wait, the gap just widens. This has a huge impact on social mobility.”A number of questions are being begged here:
1. What percentage of children are expected to meet the required communication and literacy levels? There will always be a proportion of kids who fail to meet expectations. Is it now better or worse than it used to be? How does it compare with international analogues?
2. Are the expected communications and literacy standards set at the appropriate levels? Who determines these?
3. To what extent are schools expected to remedy alleged deficiencies in the children for which they become responsible? How successfully are they achieving this?
I applaud the Minister's recognition of the need to improve children's speaking and reading skills but he needs to recognise the complexities of policies in this area.