Phil Wilson MP for Sedgefield is calling for more investment for nurseries, from the Government to boost the qualifications of nursery staff and increase available resources, following major new research which shows that children in Sedgefield are significantly falling behind girls in their basic early language skills at age five.
At a visit to Little Cubs Nursary at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe, Phil Wilson discussed with staff how in Sedgefield only 68% of boys and 85% of girls reached the expected level of speech and language skills at age five, a gender gap of 17 percentage points. This compares to national average of 75% boys and 86% girls reaching expected levels, a gap of 11 percentage points. In 2015, 150 boys in Sedgefield fell behind before they even started school.
This research launched by Save the Children last week shows that across England boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to have fallen behind by the time they start school and projects that if the results of the past ten years are repeated then nearly 1 million boys will be at risk over the next decade. Their report finds that being behind on the first day of school is often an indicator that these boys will stay behind, potentially for life.
The new research identifies that good quality early years education, has the single biggest impact in preventing children from falling behind and therefore closing the early gender gap, giving both boys and girls an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Save the children is calling on the UK Government to support the development of a well-qualified nursery workforce, with a qualified Early Years Teacher in every nursery, starting in areas with large numbers of poor children first. Early Years Teachers help to identify the children who are falling behind and support them to catch up.
Phil Wilson said: “Every child deserves the best start in life, but this research shows that not everyone is getting that chance. In Sedgefield many more boys and particularly the poorest boys are falling behind before they even reach school. This is putting their potential to succeed at school at risk.
I want all children to have a fair start. If the Government is serious about tackling the attainment gap and boosting school standards, then it simply cannot just focus on improving standards in schools. It must do much more to support nursery staff so we’re helping boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds – those most likely to fall behind - to catch up.”
Donna Martin Nursery Manager said “Although we are not seeing the same inequalities as other parts of the constituency between girls and boys we recognise there is a problem. The issue with boys is that they learn differently to girls, they respond better to more active learning such as being outside, building and gardening. This type of learning needs more resource and independent nurseries often just don’t have the money.”