Published today, the figures for England show that while the number of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) achieving a ‘good level of development’ by the end of reception has marginally increased on the previous academic year, an attainment gap remains.
In 2016/17, 56 per cent of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) achieved a ‘good level of development’ by the end of Reception, compared to 73 per cent of children not eligible for FSM.
Children with special educational needs also continue to lag behind their peers, with just 23 per cent achieving a ‘good level of development’ – the same percentage as last year.
Looking at the time of year children were born, the figures based on the breakdown of the results that were published in October, show that summer-born children were less likely to achieve a ‘good level of development’, compared to those born in the spring and autumn.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘The fact that there remains such a substantial gap between the proportion of children eligible for free schools meals achieving a "good level of development" at the end of reception and the proportion of their peers achieving the same is a significant cause for concern. Although we of course recognise that children are individuals who naturally learn and develop at different rates, this persistent trend of poorer children generally achieving lower EYFS Profile results than their wealthier peers is simply not acceptable.
‘Equally, these statistics should serve as a sharp reminder to Government of the need to ensure that children with special educational needs receive the support they both need and deserve in their early years. Far too often, we hear of providers struggling to deliver the level of care and education that children with SEN need due to a lack of sufficient funding, and it is not right that many of these children continue to miss out on vital quality early years experiences as a result.
‘If the Government is genuinely committed to improving the life chances of all children, it must do more to close these gaps. This means adequate investment into the early years sector to ensure that every child, regardless of background, has access to the quality early years provision and support they need to succeed in the long term.’