‘12,000 of school starters not ready’
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