'These findings are shocking but not surprising' - Lousie Casey's troubled families report


Government adviser Louise Casey says the chaotic histories of thousands of "troubled families" need to be addressed to help them turn their lives around. Sally Goddard Blythe gives her view

Our findings from studies which have looked at the physical development of children in primary schools in the UK, Germany and Hungary suggest that more than half of primary school children are not "ready" for school in terms of their physical development. There is a correlation between immature physical development, educational under-achievement and some behavioural problems.

While immature physical development can have neurological causes these findings suggest that social and environmental factors are increasingly contributing to the picture. Coupled with neglect, abuse, lack of positive role models within the family or the immediate community and the erosion of family values, this is a toxic mixture for the future.

Yes, a national system is needed, beginning with pre-conceptual education to all about what children need. This could start alongside sex education in school - just as important as safe sex is learning about the product of sex - children - and the physical, social and emotional responsibilities which arrive with becoming a parent. In some less advanced societies, young people are not admitted fully to adult society until they become parents - a recognition by society as a whole of the responsibilities which parenting brings.

Families who have never had a good model of family life do not know "how" or "where" to begin. Social support is needed, but also practical education into "why?" and "how?". Why does nutrition matter? How can good nutrition be provided on a meagre family budget? How do drugs affect the development of the fetal brain? Why do children need opportunity and experience of free movement in the first years of life? Why is it important to talk to your child? Why do children need routine and consistent care? Why does Mum and Dad’s behaviour affect the children? How do TV and electronic games affect your child’s brain and behaviour? Why is outdoor play important? Where is the nearest outdoor play area? Why is it better to have different generations sharing open and public spaces?

This is just one starting point for the future.

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