We need concrete action to ensure all children have the chance to learn and develop

Written by Neil Mathers on 9 June 2016 in Comment

Neil Mathers, head of Scotland at Save the Children, on the challenges facing the Holyrood baby

Thank you for introducing us to Kirsty, the Holyrood baby.

 At Save the Children, we know that she will face monumental challenges throughout her childhood. Caley, her mum, will have to make difficult financial decisions and is less likely to be able to afford books, activities and excursions to help her development. Caley will undoubtedly find life much more stressful as she attempts to do the very best she can for her daughter.

Children growing up in poverty, like Kirsty, are likely to do less well than their peers. Save the Children is particularly concerned about language development, with children from the most deprived areas twice as likely to experience difficulties before they start school. 


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Those children are more likely to fall behind in their attainment at every stage of their education. Firm foundations in early language skills are critical to breaking the cycle of educational inequality but there remains a stubborn gap between children experiencing poverty and their peers. By the end of this parliament, when Kirsty and her peers are just starting school, we want every child in Scotland to have good early language skills. 

We want to see action to improve Kirsty’s childhood today, and her prospects for the future. That means investing in a high quality early learning and childcare system that supports early language development, and a workforce that is skilled and confident in supporting children at different ages and stages.

It is vital that all early years professionals understand how to promote good early language skills and can take action to ensure children get the help they need when they need it.

Crucially, we need to do more to strengthen support to parents and help them to gain the skills and confidence to support their children’s learning and development at home. Support in the earliest years is critical to children’s success – we need concrete action now to ensure all children have the chance to learn and develop.

For Kirsty and all the other babies born into similar situations, we want to make sure that the odds aren’t already stacked against them.

Neil Mathers is head of Scotland at Save the Children

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