UK five-year-olds not ready to learn


A new survey of more than 500 teachers from across the UK has revealed that children are joining primary school without the speech and language skills needed to learn in the classroom or start to read

According to the poll by the UK charity Save the Children, 75 per cent of primary school teachers see children arriving in reception class struggling to speak in full sentences, read (81%) or even follow simple instructions (65%).

As a result, more than three-quarters of teachers (78%) voiced concerns that despite their best classroom efforts these children may never catch up.

The poll also found that 80 per cent of teachers were spending extra time helping children learn basic communication skills, while almost two-thirds (63%) said they now lack the time to teach other children in the class who don’t struggle with speech and language.

Just over half of the teachers surveyed believed the problem was affecting their schools’ results (56%) and an equal number said that poor language development is causing problems for classroom management, as children struggling to understand or express themselves can’t follow lessons or resort to misbehaving.

Almost 80 per cent of teachers felt that investing more in the quality of nurseries was the key to improving primary school results.

 Gareth Jenkins, Director of UK Poverty at Save the Children said:

‘This poll shows the shocking impact of so many children arriving at school without basic speech and language skills. The government has pledged to drive up school standards but it is time that we recognised that nursery standards are just as important in children’s development. Without investment to improve nursery quality we’ll continue to see schools struggling to support the one in four children who arrive at their gates without the basic language and communication skills needed to read, learn and succeed in the classroom.’

Save the Children is part of the Read On. Get On. literacy coalition, which is committed to ensuring that by 2025 every child is a confident reader by 11. To reach this target it says every child needs to be achieving good early language development by age 5 by 2020.


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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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