First words ‘crucial’ to attainment gap

Written by Tom Freeman on 16 June 2016 in News

Save the Children research reveals the impact of poor speech development in the early years

Alphabet blocks, credit Rhia Perkins​

The attainment gap between rich and poor children in school is often created before they even reach school, new research for charity Save the Children has revealed.

At least 7,000 children in Scotland have problems in language and speech development in the early years, and are twice as likely among more deprived communities, the report said.

Children who struggle tend to still be behind at age 11.


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The charity called for the “early warning signs” of speech development to be recognised and tackled as part of the Scottish Government’s drive to narrow the attainment gap.

Save the Children’s policy manager, Vicky Crichton said education secretary John Swinney’s agenda was a “golden opportunity” to address the problem.

 “Children develop best when they have been exposed to lots of words from a young age – talk, play, stories and nursery rhymes. These language skills are the essential building blocks that children need to understand the world around them, to learn to read, to thrive at school and to go on to achieve their full potential.

“Mr Swinney’s plan must look well beyond the school gates and include bold and ambitious actions to close this gap in the early years, and at its most crucial point,” she said. 

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