Invest more in early years to improve primary results, say teachers

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Eight in ten teachers think investing more in the quality of early years education would improve primary school results, finds a new survey.


Three-quarters of primary school teachers surveyed see children arriving in Reception struggling to speak in full sentences

Of the 504 UK primary school teachers surveyed by Save the Children – a member of the Read On. Get On. campaign - 79 per cent believe investing more in nursery and pre-school provision would reduce the number of children starting primary school without the speech and language skills they need to learn in the classroom.

Seventy-five per cent of primary school teachers surveyed said that children were arriving in Reception struggling to speak in full sentences

Eighty-one per cent of respondents reported seeing children start school struggling to read words or sentences and 65 per cent witnessed children experiencing difficulties following simple instructions.

The findings back the campaign group’s call for extra Government investment in nurseries so all settings can employ a qualified early years teacher by 2020.

Read On. Get On., a coalition of organisations concerned with early learning, believes having an early years teacher in place will ensure that every child achieves a good level of language development by the age of five.

Teachers who took part in the survey also spoke of the impact of children’s poor speech and language skills. Eight in ten reported having to spend extra time with these pupils, taking time away from other children in the class.

More than half said that the problem negatively affects school results and is causing problems in the classroom like poor attention or behaviour.

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 children who arrive at their gates without the basic language and communication skills needed to read, learn and succeed at in the classroom.’

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has backed the call for greater Government investment in early years education, highlighting that the Early Years Pupil Premium is much lower than the pupil premium for primary school children.

Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, ‘Investment in high-quality early years education reaps great rewards for children and society generally, with the biggest return on investment from starting early, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils.

‘It’s not good enough to wait until children are at school and already falling behind their peers. Early literacy and communication skills are fundamental to later success in life. And yet the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) is just £300 per pupil, which is pocket money compared to the primary school equivalent of £1,320.

‘The Government needs to consider this carefully and take the next step to invest in our children’s crucial years of development, building on what is already in place.’

She added, ‘Nurseries have been performing well, against all the odds. Our aspiration is for all childcare settings to be teacher-led but chronic low pay and difficulties in recruitment and retention need to be addressed.

‘There needs to be a wholescale investment in training and recruitment for the early years workforce, coupled with fair funding for free childcare places so nurseries can afford to invest in their staff and pay them a decent wage.’

Mary Hartshorne, director of outcomes and information at children’s communication charity I CAN - a Read.On.Get.On coalition partner - said, 'We know from our work in early years settings that one of the main challenges of supporting early language development is identifying children who have delayed speech and language development as early as possible – so that support can be put in place to help these children catch up with their peers.'

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