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MISSED MILESTONES BY AGE 5 MEANS MANY CHILDREN IN WALES MAY NEVER CATCH UP

  • Around a third of children living in poverty (30-35%) are already falling behind at age 5
  • Nearly half of children in poverty who are behind at age 5 remain in the lowest performing group at age 7, 11 and 14
  • New analysis shows that on average 45% of children living in income deprivation in Wales are not eligible for Flying Start

A new report by Save the Children reveals how children living in poverty in Wales who are already behind when they start school may never catch up with their classmates.

Over a quarter (28% or 50,000) of under-fives in Wales are living in income poverty. The report Little Pieces. Big Picture shows that by age 5 around a third of children living in poverty (30-35%) are already falling behind across a range of key milestones such as language skills and problem solving, compared to one fifth (20-21%) of their peers.

The research also shows that falling behind in the early years means it’s more likely children will struggle throughout their education. Nearly half of children who were in the lowest performing group at the beginning of primary school were also behind at ages 7,11 and 14.

However, the analysis also shows that when we get it right in the early years how this can help children stay ahead throughout their education and into their adult lives.

Whilst acknowledging Welsh Government has committed to supporting children and their families by announcing plans to grow and develop a highly skilled childcare workforce and offer a range of initiatives providing several hours of free childcare to many families, Save the Children is still concerned that access to high quality early years provision and support is still often left to chance for too many children in Wales.

Often services are not available to all families in every area of Wales with new analysis showing that nearly half (45%) of children living in poverty in are not eligible for Flying Start, the early years programme for families living in disadvantaged communities in Wales. Further support is also needed for parents who are facing increasing pressures from changes to the economy and the welfare system and to those who are using informal childcare or not accessing formal early education services, to help them give their child the best start during their early years.

The charity is calling on the Welsh Government to:

  • deliver a single, simple and coherent system for high quality early education and care.
  • establish sole Ministerial responsibility for all aspects of early childhood education and care, including Welsh language provision, and in tackling the attainment gap.
  • ensure equal access to high quality ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) for all children in Wales with a specific focus on providing additional support to children living in poverty.

Each of these elements form pieces of what Save the Children see as the jigsaw of Early Childhood Education and Care. In order to create the bigger picture of a system that delivers for all children living in Wales, every piece needs to come together. The charity is also calling on all political parties to join the mission to complete the puzzle and on other charities and stakeholders to support parents, carers, and grandparents to engage in their children’s early learning at home.

Louise Davies, Head of Save the Children in Wales said: “We all want children to have the best start in life, to be happy and have every opportunity to begin their learning journey positively. We know how vital early childhood is for a child’s development and the role it plays in shaping the kind of people we grow up to be. But sadly too many children in Wales, particularly the poorest, are already struggling by the time they start school and that, crucially, many never catch up.

“In Wales we have many parts of the jigsaw available to provide a great start in a child’s life, but there are pieces missing or misplaced making it difficult for us to complete the bigger picture. We all have a role to play in solving the puzzle and making a difference for the future of all children living in Wales.”

Ends

For further press information or to arrange interviews or filming opportunities at the early years nursery setting at Millbrook Primary School in Newport where the report Little Pieces. Big Picture report will be launched please contact Media & Comms Managers for Save the Children Wales (job share):

Eurgain Haf: 02920 803253/ 07900214959 e.haf@savethechildren.org.uk

Rhian Brewster, on 02920 803270/07827 663629 r.brewster@savethechildren.org.uk

Notes to Editors

A printed copy of the Litttle Pieces. Big Picture is available upon request

Save the Children’s full recommendations listed in the report are:

We are calling on Welsh Government to:

1. Fill the gaps: Deliver a single, simple and coherent system for high quality early education and care

  • Provide key updates on progress that have been committed to and deliver on recommendations for a ‘Single Quality Framework’ for ECEC in Wales.
  • Establish sole Ministerial responsibility for all aspects of early childhood education and care (including Welsh language provision and ensure a focus on the role of ECEC in tackling the attainment gap.

2. No child left behind: Ensure equal access to high quality ECEC for all children in Wales with a specific focus on providing additional support to all children living in poverty:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 15 hours a week of high-quality, free at the point of use ECEC for all children aged between two and four and living in poverty:
  • Extend the minimum eligibility for ECEC hours per week from 10 to 15 for three and four year olds in nonworking households
  • Introduce a new entitlement of 15 hours per week of ECEC for all two year olds living in poverty

We are calling on all political parties to:

  • Join our mission to complete the ‘ECEC jigsaw’ and support the calls above.

We are calling on all stakeholders to:

  • Support parents, carers and grandparents to engage in their children’s early learning at home by working together to explore how ECEC settings and the new Prosperity for All Community Education Centres cansupport families

About Save the Children’s work in Wales (www.savethechildren.org.uk/wales)

In Wales, almost one in three or 200,000 children are living in poverty. This is a figure that has remained stubbornly static for the last decade and is the highest rate of child poverty of any country in the UK. Analysis carried out in November 2017 by Save the Children has shown that 49,014 (28%) of children under 5 in Wales are considered to be living in income poverty (LGDU-W,2017). This can mean going without essentials, or living in a home that is cold or damp. And it can make it harder for children to do well at school. We’re fighting to ensure that every child in Wales gets a fair start in life. By the time they start school, children experiencing poverty are often already falling behind their better-off peers. As they get older, this education gap widens and can leave them at an unfair disadvantage. It is a huge challenge for children, teachers and parents. Through our programmes and campaigns in Wales, we aim to give children living in poverty the support they need to fulfil their potential.