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Published, 7 June 2018

Ofsted head warns some young children start school lacking basic hygiene and language skills

Early years workers should work with parents to identify the critical gaps in young children’s lives that could hold them back in school and in later life.

That’s the message from Amanda Spielman, head of Ofsted, the department responsible for inspecting educational establishments in England.

Speaking at the 2018 Pre-school Learning Alliance conference in London, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector highlighted that schools in England have reported an increase in children in their Reception year who lack basic language skills and have difficulty using a toilet.

Points made by the Ofsted chief in her speech included:

  • Some four-year-olds have less than a third of the English vocabulary of their peers
  • Reports of children starting school still wearing nappies
  • Disadvantage and a sense of exclusion can be locked in early on

The Chief Inspector spoke of ‘unlucky’ children who arrive at school without knowing the words they need to communicate how they feel, and will face greater disadvantage compared to ‘lucky’ children who have a family culture of reading and interaction.

Describing the ‘word gap’ that some young children experience, Mrs Spielman suggested that the schools who excel put literacy at the heart of what they do, starting from a child’s Reception year.

The Ofsted head spoke clearly about the role and responsibilities that parents have, but also mentioned that nursery workers can make a “world of difference” to children’s lives:

“While parents clearly have the most important role here, it follows that nurseries and childminders must also play their part. After all, many pre-schoolers spend much of their daytime in childcare.”

The Chief Inspector also mentioned that Ofsted are currently updating their inspection framework.

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