Hamilton: “The long-term ramifications of these developmental difficulties for children in poverty are very serious"
Scottish children under the age of five from deprived backgrounds are ‘already failing before school starts’, according to a study by the charity Save the Children.
The ‘Thrive at Five’ report found that children from poorer homes were twice as likely to have physical development difficulties, emotional difficulties, or problems communicating and expressing themselves when they started school.
Deprived children were also 50 per cent more likely to struggle socially when mixing with other children, and 40 per cent more likely to be at a disadvantage compared to their peers in terms of cognitive development.
Douglas Hamilton, Head of Scotland for Save the Children, said: “The long-term ramifications of these developmental difficulties for children in poverty are very serious. To discover that this ‘developmental divide’ begins before a child even starts school is incredibly worrying. Ultimately, the consequences of this glaring gap are found in reduced future opportunities and life chances of children who live in poverty.”
The findings confirm the Scottish Government’s focus on early intervention and further support for early years services, but will also increase pressure to expand the childcare provisions of the Children & Young Person’s Bill, on which the Government has just finished consulting.
The report’s authors are calling for free childcare to be extended to all two-year-olds living in poverty, as well as the creation of an entitlement for poorer families to have access to parenting and family support programmes.
“Thrive at Five tells us that we must prioritise support for the children growing up in poverty before they even start school,” said Hamilton. “There is some great work going on in Scotland to support young children and there is political agreement about the importance of the early years.
“The forthcoming Children & Young People’s Bill provides an opportunity for the Scottish Government to commit to investing in early years education. Unless these actions benefit young children we will never stop this vicious cycle that keeps people poor – generation after generation.”
‘Thrive at Five’ looked at the development levels of 3,000 Scottish children from different socio-economic backgrounds as they started primary school at age five, and was produced in partnership with Scotcen Social Research. The report marks the first time that such comprehensive data has been compiled in relation to child development for children starting school.