‘12,000 of school starters not ready’

Rochdale Observer - - MOORLAND HOME FUN DAY - Jen­nifer.wil­liams@men-news.co.uk @jen­williams­men

MORE than a third of Greater Manch­ester’s four and five-year-olds started school on Tues­day un­able to speak in full sen­tences, hold a book or in some cases even use the toi­let.

Some 12,000 chil­dren are thought to be start­ing their ed­u­ca­tion this week with­out be­ing ‘school ready’, a dis­ad­van­tage that could hold them for the rest of their lives, ac­cord­ing to the re­gion’s com­bined author­ity.

Es­sen­tial skills in­clude the ba­sic abil­ity to un­der­stand the word ‘no’, ask an adult for help, com­mu­ni­cate with each other, put on their shoes, sit still and be potty trained, but thou­sands of poorer young­sters will not have learned them by the time they reach school.

To­day the re­gion’s mayor Andy Burn­ham will launch a drive to ‘level the play­ing field’ and en­sure ‘no child is left be­hind’. Greater Manch­ester must ‘seize the op­por­tu­nity’ pre­sented through de­vo­lu­tion, he will say.

“To­day is the first day at school for about 35,000 chil­dren across Greater Manch­ester,” he will tell a pub­lic health con­fer­ence in Manch­ester.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing time as new friend­ships are forged and new sur­round­ings are dis­cov­ered.

“But for many, the first year at school is much harder than it is for oth­ers.

“Here in Greater Manch­ester, we want to do some­thing about that.

“We will not build a more equal so­ci­ety un­til there is a level play­ing field at the start, with all kids ar­riv­ing at school ready to learn and ful­fil their po­ten­tial.”

Greater Manch­ester Com­bined Author­ity es­ti­mated that 12,000 Greater Manch­ester chil­dren more than a third - will be start­ing Year One with­out the skills to learn - in­clud­ing speak­ing in full sen­tences, hold­ing a book or even us­ing the toi­let.

The gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers school readi­ness a key in­di­ca­tor of de­pri­va­tion and so­cial mo­bil­ity. Mr Burn­ham will now ask all pub­lic bod­ies - in­clud­ing schools - to sign a pledge promis­ing to work to­gether, shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and re­sources, to rad­i­cally im­prove rates of school readi­ness over the next five years.

He will point out many young par­ents do not even earn enough to prop­erly feed their chil­dren, ‘never mind buy books to help with early read­ing’, adding: “But the prob­lem isn’t just lack of money. Many young par­ents to­day are ‘time-poor’ too - do­ing two or even three inse­cure, part-time jobs.”

The mayor, who put in­equal­ity at the cen­tre of his elec­tion cam­paign, is also plan­ning to drop the phrase ‘trou­bled fam­i­lies’, used by the gov­ern­ment since the af­ter­math of the 2011 ri­ots as a way of cat­e­goris­ing many poorer house­holds, ar­gu­ing Greater Manch­ester’s ap­proach will be ‘non­judge­men­tal’.

●●Greater Manch­ester Com­bined Author­ity has es­ti­mated 12,000 chil­dren in the re­gion will start Year 1 with­out the skills to learn

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