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Poor kids twice as likely to struggle with reading

This news post is about 7 years old

Some children are behind in language by the time they start school and will never catch up

The poorest children in Scotland are twice as likely to struggle with reading, writing and speaking, a new report has found.

Research from theRead On, Get On coalition of charities and literacy agencies shows that those from the most deprived areas are likely to fall behind with their language and literacy skills as early as age three and may never catch up.

The coalition, which today launched its Ready to Read research, is calling on the Scottish Government to invest in more preventative measures to tackle the problem.

Its authors say one in five of the poorest children in Scotland leave primary school unable to read well and that children who read well by 11 do better at school, get better exam results and do better in the workplace.

The poorest children are also half as likely to have the qualifications they need to go onto further study.

Professor Sue Ellis, chair of the Read On, Get On campaign, said children not having strong language skills by the time they start school is the biggest educational issue that Scotland’s young children face in terms of development.

“Being behind in language will affect children’s learning, their social skills and their life chances,” she said.

“Early language is the vital stepping stone to literacy and there is very clear evidence that poverty and deprivation continue to impact on children’s ability to read well. Illiteracy impacts on all areas of child’s life.”

The coalition, which includes Save the Children, wants every childcare provider to be given access to specialist support, poverty awareness training and for there to be an increased focus on language and literacy during early learning inspections.

Health visitors and other workers who come into contact with young children should also be given more training in a bid to get across to parents the importance of promoting early language.

Neil Mathers, head of Save the Children in Scotland and spokesperson for the Read On, Get On campaign welcomed a recent £2.7 million investment from the Scottish Government into pre-school literacy programmes but said more has to be done.

Early language is the vital stepping stone to literacy and there is very clear evidence that poverty and deprivation continue to impact on children’s ability to read well. Illiteracy impacts on all areas of child’s life

“The early years are the golden years for supporting child development, especially where language is concerned. Too many of our poorest children are behind at age five,” he said.

“If we don’t do more to help all children develop strong language skills by the time they start school, this is the sticking point that could jeopardise the Scottish Government’s own goals on closing the attainment gap in schools. But with the right support from the start, children can overcome the impact of poverty.”

The coalition is strongly advocating for a national child development measure to be introduced that tracks young children’s progress at agreed milestones from birth to starting school.

It says children’s reading skills have declined since 2012 but insists its suggested improvement could reverse that and that by 2025 all of Scotland’s children will start secondary school as confident readers.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said improving literacy and raising attainment was a key priority for it.

“Results from the forthcoming Growing Up in Scotland study show vocabulary in three-year-olds is getting better, but we will not rest until we see clear evidence that we have closed the attainment gap for every child,” she said.

“To do this we are bringing forward a clear programme of work focusing on early intervention and improving attainment. This includes the £100m Scottish Attainment Fund to boost literacy and numeracy in our most deprived areas, a new National Improvement Framework, Attainment Advisers for every local authority and the Raising Attainment for All programme with over 50 literacy-based school projects.

“We know that a skilled workforce is key to supporting young children's learning, that's why we commissioned a report to look at skills and qualifications and are already investing £1m this financial year to support the development of the early learning and childcare workforce.”



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