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  • Over 250 thousand children started school unable to achieve basic skills like, using the toilet, listening, sharing and responding to questions.
  • 195 days of staff time a year per class is lost from their priorities due to children in reception class who are not ready and able to learn. This comes at a cost to the children, teachers and school budgets. 
  • A key factor to the INCREASE in the number of children not school ready is the lack of access to health visitors, nursery schools, baby toddler groups and other local services.
  • Teachers call for a streamlining of government early years services to ensure every child starts school ready to learn and to  improve guidance to parents about what it means to be ‘school ready’.
  • Over £300 million worth of teaching and teacher assistants’ time is lost each year getting children ‘school ready’

The latest YouGov research commissioned by charitable foundation Kindred2 shows the number of children starting school without the basic development skills is at record levels exacerbated by Covid19. Lack of school readiness was up by 10 percentage points resulting in a stressful, demoralising learning environment for teachers and pupils. 

An in-depth survey of over 500 primary schools across the country found, for the intake of 4/5 years olds in 2020, Key Stage 1 teachers said that 46% of them were not school ready. A few teachers in the north east and parts of the south west reported an increase of 70%. An earlier survey of 2019(4)  reception intake revealed, at least 35% of children were not school ready, unable to achieve basic skills like going to the toilet, listening, putting on a coat, sharing and responding to questions, which are all basic milestones every child should have reached by their first day at school.  

“They have poor speech and language skills – this year there is a jarring difference as they have missed 4 months in nursery. A backslide in speech has a negative impact on how we get through our phonics program. Some kids can’t pronounce their own names.” North, Town & fringe, Depth

Transition days, stay and play, nursery and home visits have not been possible in lockdown triggering an increase in separation anxiety. A lack of support for parents during lockdown has highlighted the importance of pre-school, social care, Family Support Workers, health visitors and other local services. 

Teachers have seen a loss of inquisitiveness, attention and poor language skills which they put down to overuse of technology by both children and parents. Children lacking basic understanding and communication skills often breeds frustration that bubbles over into misbehaviour, frustration and anger and it affects their confidence massively, leaving them feeling isolated from their peers and embarrassed. 

 “Some children who aren’t fully toilet trained are having to change their clothes 2 or 3 times a day – that’s a lot of time out of class, and other children start to notice as well” East of England, Town & fringe

“Teachers / TAs duties are taken up by supporting children e.g. with toileting (nappy changes), language and communication skills groups” South East, Urban

On an average day it is estimated that 6 hours of staff time across teachers, teaching assistants, support staff and the leadership team is lost from their priorities. In a school year teachers report they could be losing around 195 hours teaching time per class and 390 hours of teaching assistants’ time.This comes at a cost not just for children missing out on teaching but a financial cost on already stretched school budgets. Up to £300m a year is lost from other priorities in schools in the UK by spending time getting pupils ‘school ready’. 

Our research also reveals a clear discrepancy between parent and teacher expectations of ‘school readiness’. In discussions with teachers they called for improved support and information for parents, the joining up of early years services and better targeting of these services to the families facing the greatest challenges.

Strong evidence shows higher early years development spending leads to improved later life earnings, particularly for pupils from poorer backgrounds. The same impact delivered by £1 in early years costs £7 if you wait to intervene in adolescence(5).

80% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 3. Helping parents to support and stimulate their babies and toddlers before they get to school will help unlock the skills they need to learn. This could change the course of that child’s life – and mean that society could benefit from the best that child and adult has to offer

A recent public poll showed 82% agree the early years are the most important years for a child’s development and we should do all we can to support them. 56% agree the Government should invest more in supporting families to improve early child development. 77% of the public agree ‘It’s more cost-efficient to spend money earlier to nip problems in the bud, than to spend more later repairing damage done.’



Media contacts 

For further information or to request a spokesperson interview, please contact Rosie Shannon, Media and Communications  at Kindred2, on or 07580422706. 

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