According to academics from Royal Holloway, University of London, who carried out research into children’s language ability when they started reception, a 'radical shake-up' of the EYFS is needed so more focus is placed on developing children's spoken language.
The research, based upon teachers’ ratings of speaking, listening and behaviour for 7,267 children attending 170 primary schools in Surrey, found that the youngest children, including those born in the summer, were almost twice as likely to have language difficulties and behaviour problems than older children in the same class.
The authors of the study argue this is because many four-year-olds do not have sufficient language skills to meet current curriculum targets, which are increasingly focused on reading, writing and verbal problem-solving.
As such, they call for a ‘radical shake-up of the curriculum’, making developing spoken language a key priority.
Professor Courtenay Norbury from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, said, ‘It is well known that summer-born children can be disadvantaged at school because they are the youngest in the class and there is a constant dilemma for parents over whether to delay sending their children to school.
‘However, starting school young may be less of a problem if the curriculum is more in line with children’s developmental levels, and more emphasis is placed on developing children’s oral language skills.’
She added, ‘We need to make sure that young children experience early success at school so that they develop confidence and become enthusiastic learners. If curriculum targets are out of reach, problems with learning and behaviour may become entrenched.’
A Department for Education spokesperson said, ’Our reforms are raising the quality of early years education and childcare, and by doubling the entitlement for working parents we are helping to ensure more children are ready to make the transition to school.
’We know the best teachers tailor their lessons for all their pupils’ needs and our streamlined Early Years Foundation Stage profile places a stronger emphasis on the areas which are most essential for a child's development and a greater focus on the key skills children need for a good start in life.
’We are reviewing the issue of summer-born children more widely, including those born prematurely.’