UK Poverty

Every child deserves a good start

Across the UK, too many very young children are not getting the support they need to learn and develop to their full potential.

The odds are stacked against children who struggle under the age of 5 - and many won’t ever catch up.

Through our campaigns and programmes in the UK, we’re working to give children a better chance of a big future. We want all young children to be supported to learn and develop – whether at home, in nurseries and childcare, or in communities.

It’s proven that high-quality early education and childcare makes a vital difference to early learning, and benefits the UK’s poorest children most. We’re calling on the governments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to invest in creating world-class early education and childcare systems in each country.

England

Last year more than 250,000 children in England started school behind in their development – and the poorest children were twice as likely to start school behind.

The early years of a child’s life are vital. Evidence shows that going to a good-quality nursery can act as a safeguard against falling behind. Save the Children’s goal is to see an ambitious new plan for childcare in the next parliament.

All nurseries should be high quality, parents must clearly know what support they can get, and there should be extra help with costs for those who need it the most.

Our little ones deserve a better start in life – and families, struggling to do their best, deserve better support.

Read our reports and find out more about our work in England.

Northern Ireland

One child in four children in Northern Ireland lives in poverty.

At the same time, a child who struggles with early language skills in Northern Ireland is about 40% less likely to have good reading skills at age 7 and 80% less likely to have good comprehension skills at age 11 as their peers who have good early language skills.

We are calling for:

1. Pre-school and childcare services to be led by graduates – who can identify and support children at risk of falling behind, and can set a curriculum that supports young children’s learning

2. Tracking young children’s outcomes to better understand their progress

3. Early education and childcare services that help strengthen parents’ and families’ skills to support their children’s early learning at home.

Save the Children’s goal is to see an ambitious new plan for developing a high-quality, affordable, pre-school and childcare system for all young children in Northern Ireland.

Read our reports and find out more about our work in Northern Ireland.

Scotland

Last year one in ten young children in Scotland was behind in their speech and language development by age three. The poorest children struggled the most – they were twice as likely to start school behind.

We’re calling for a greater focus on children’s early learning and development, especially for those children most likely to struggle, because of the impact this has on their childhood and later life chances. Evidence shows that attending good-quality childcare can help children’s early learning, and can also help families increase their income.

We’re working with Scottish government to develop a quality action plan. We are calling for:

1. A clear focus on strengthening and extending the quality of early learning and childcare provision to help support children’s early development, especially speech, language and communication

2. Investment in the early years workforce, which supports children’s learning and development, and can identify and help those children at risk of falling behind

3. Advice and investment for settings to help support those children experiencing poverty

4. Evidence-based poverty awareness and understanding training as a core part of ongoing professional development of the early years workforce.

We also want the Scottish government to improve support for parents to engage in their children’s early learning at home, by improving the early years workforce’s access to quality assured training.

Read our reports and find out more about our work in Scotland.

Wales

Many young children in Wales fall behind in their development before they start school. One in ten children in Wales are behind in language ability at the end of the foundation stage (age 7). For children living in poverty, this doubles to one in five.  

We’re highlighting the scale and nature of young children being left behind and the impact this has on their childhood and later life chances.

We’re calling on the Welsh Government to prioritise tackling the gap in early learning outcomes for young children by investing in high-quality early education and childcare by:

1. Investing further in the quality of the early education workforce

2. Strengthening support for parents by ensuring staff have the skills to support parents to engage in their children’s learning at home

3. Ensuring all children living in poverty can access high quality early education and childcare.

Read our reports and find out more about our work in Wales.

Read the latest blogs on poverty

Our experts

Kayte Lawton

Head of UK Policy
k.lawton@savethechildren.org.uk
@Kayte_Lawton

Kayte’s team focuses on early child development, and the role of childcare and preschool education in tackling inequalities in children’s early learning and later life chances.

Kayte previously worked at the think tank IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research), where she led projects in social policy and public services, including on employment, low pay, fiscal policy and social reform. Kayte is an experienced media commentator and public speaker.

Jerome Finnegan

Research and Policy Adviser
j.finnegan@savethechildren.org.uk

Jerome’s work currently focuses on inequalities in children’s early development, and childcare and early education policy in the UK.

Previously, Jerome worked at the National Centre for Social Research, where he worked on mixed methods research projects and evaluations on a wide range of topics.

He has an MA from Goldsmiths, University of London and a BA from University College Dublin. His most recent publications include Untapped Potential and Lighting Up Young Brains

Vicky Crichton

Senior Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns Manager (Scotland)
v.crichton@savethechildren.org.uk

Vicky joined Save the Children in January 2016 to lead our advocacy work in Scotland, which is currently focused on improving the quality of early learning and childcare, and supporting parental engagement in children’s learning.

Prior to this she worked in policy, advocacy and communications roles within Scottish Government, in adult learning and in the NHS, and spent seven years as Senior Public Affairs Manager for Cancer Research UK.

Vicky has a sound understanding of the political systems and contexts in Scotland, and across the UK, and has a strong track record in influencing policy and legislation, as well as experience of the inner workings of government policy-making.  

Claire Telfer

Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns for the Devolved Nations
c.telfer@savethechildren.org.uk

Claire leads our policy, advocacy and campaigning across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Her main themes of work are early child development, the role of childcare and preschool education in improving outcomes for children and tackling poverty and supporting parental engagement in children’s learning.

Claire has a strong track record in influencing policy and legislation on a range of children’s issues in a devolved context. She worked for Save the Children for over a decade in various roles in Scotland before taking up her current post in 2015. Claire is on the board of Together, the Scottish Alliance for children’s rights. She has an MSc in social policy from the University of Edinburgh.

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