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Teachers Poll: Children Start School Struggling to Speak in Full Sentences


Friday, 20 November 2015

A new poll of more than 500 teachers from across the UK has revealed that children are joining primary school without the speech and language skills needed to learn in the classroom or start to read. Teachers surveyed said that many children never catch up and that this early language gap was dragging down school results and making it harder for them to deliver the curriculum for all children.

According to the survey by Save the Children – part of the Read On. Get On. literacy coalition of leading charities, teachers, parents and businesses – 75% of primary school teachers see children arriving in reception class struggling to speak in full sentences, read (81%) or even follow simple instructions (65%).

As a result, more than three quarters of teachers (78%) voiced concerns that despite their best classroom efforts these children may never catch up. Being behind in speech and language at age five will still affect children when they enter secondary school , according to a quarter of teachers (24%). 1 in 7 teachers (14%) even expect the impact of poor language skills during a child’s early years to be life-long.

Government figures show that 1 in 5 children starting school in England have failed to develop good early language skills and the polling has revealed that teachers are struggling to cope with the impact in their classrooms. 8 in 10 (80%) were spending extra time helping children learn basic communication skills. Almost two thirds (63%) say they now lack the time to teach other children in the class who don’t struggle with speech and language. More than half said the problem was affecting the schools’ results (56%) and the same number (56%) said that poor language development is causing problems for classroom management, as children struggling to understand or express themselves can’t follow lessons or start to misbehave.

Teachers also sent a strong message about the role nurseries play in ensuring children arrive at school ready to learn. Evidence from Save the Children and the Read On. Get On. coalition has shown that high quality nurseries led by early years teachers have the biggest positive impact on children’s early language development. This was backed up by teachers, 8 out of 10 of whom (79%) felt that investing more in the quality of nurseries was the key to improving primary school results. A mere 15% said they felt the Government was currently investing enough in pre-school education and nurseries.

Gareth Jenkins, Director of UK Poverty at Save the Children says: “This poll shows the shocking impact of so many children arriving at school without basic speech and language skills. The government has pledged to drive up school standards but it is time that we recognised that nursery standards are just as important in children’s development. Without investment to improve nursery quality we’ll continue to see schools struggling to support the 1 in 4 children who arrive at their gates without the basic language and communication skills needed to read, learn and succeed at in the classroom.”

Read On. Get On. continues to galvanise the nation to ensure that by 2025, every child is a confident reader by age 11. For more information on Read On. Get On. please visit www.readongeton.co.uk

ENDS

For more information please contact Ian Preston at the Save the Children press office: i.preston@savethechildren.org.uk / 0203 763 1031

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Read On. Get On:

Reading is the key to unlocking a child’s full potential and one of the best routes out of poverty for our poorest children. Yet in the UK today too many of our children, including 36% of the poorest children in England leave primary school without being able to read well. And the achievement gap starts early, with 23% of the poorest children arriving at primary school already behind in their language development.

Our mission:

  • To ensure that every child is reading well by age 11 by 2025.
  • To reach this target we need every child to be achieving good early language development by age 5 by 2020.

Read on. Get on. will galvanise the nation so that everyone plays their part in making this happen. The full list of members include: Achievement for All, Beanstalk, Booktrust, Harper Collins, I CAN, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), National Literacy Trust, Publishers Association, Reading Agency, Save the Children and Teachfirst. For more information visit www.readongeton.org.uk

Improving nursery quality

Evidence published in Ready to Read (2015) and Reading England’s Future (2015) shows that improving the quality of nurseries, particularly ensuring that they are led by a graduate early years teacher has the biggest impact on early language development – particularly for the groups who are furthest behind, including children on free school meals and boys.

To raise nursery quality, the Read On. Get On. coalition has called for additional government investment to ensure that every nursery is led by a graduate early years teacher by 2020 – prioritising the poorest areas first.

The Com Res survey of 504 UK primary school teachers revealed:

ComRes interviewed 504 primary school teachers online between 12th and 21st October 2015 in the UK.

  • 75% of teachers say they see children arriving in Reception class struggling to speak in full sentences.
  • 81% of teachers say children are struggling with reading words or sentences
  • 65% of teachers say they see children struggling in their interactions with teachers such as understanding simple instructions
  • 84% of teachers who see children unable to speak in full sentences say they are concerned and 52% of teachers who say that they see children struggling with reading words or sentences say they are concerned
  • 10% of teachers say that joining primary school with poor speech and language affects all a child’s time at primary school and 9% say it affects primary and secondary school
  • 14% of teachers think the impact of poor speech and language skills in the early years is lifelong
  • 79% of teachers say they have a greater workload due to poor speech and language skills in the school and 73% will use significant resources to help children catch up
  • 80% of teachers spent increased time helping children with poor speech and language skills catch up
  • 63% of teachers say having children with poor speech and language skills in Reception means it is harder to find time to work with other children who do not have poor skills in this area.
  • 56% of teachers say having children with poor speech and language skills negatively affects school results
  • 55% of teachers say having children with poor speech and language skills say it is difficult to deliver the curriculum
  • 79% teachers felt that investing more in the quality of nurseries was the key to improving primary school results
  • 15% of teachers think that the Government invests enough in early years education
  • 80% of teachers say that children with poor speech and language skills struggle to learn to read and 79% say they struggle to understand and follow instructions
  • 56% of teachers say children with poor speech and language skills struggle with all subjects