Early Years are important for later life.

The Early Years Foundation Stage profiles (EYFSP) for 2016-17 were published earlier this week by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/early-years-foundation-stage-profile-results-2016-to-2017 interestingly, they show continued improvement in many areas.

The DfE noted that at a national level, 70.7% of children achieved a good level of development, an increase of 1.4 percentage points (ppts) on 2016. The same trend was seen in the percentage achieving at least the expected level across all early learning goals. This has increased by 1.7ppts from 2016. However, the average total point score has remained the same as 2016 at 34.5.

Girls continue to perform better in the profiles. However, the gender gap for the percentage of children achieving a good level of development has reduced from 14.7 ppts in 2016 to 13.7 ppts in 2017. Similarly, the gap for the percentage achieving at least the expected level in all early learning goals decreased from 15.7ppts in 2016 to 14.7 ppts in 2017. Both girls and boys have improved but boys have improved at a faster rate. The gap in the average total point score has decreased from 2.5 to 2.4 points. Nevertheless, there still remains a long way to go.

The Secretary of State has always been interested in social mobility. Indeed he helped found the All Party Parliamentary Group on the subject (APPG). In a speech this week he highlighted the importance of the home in both the pre-school years and the help and encouragement families can provide during the school years. He said the following, echoing a speech Nick Clegg made when he was deputy Prime Minister during the coalition;

On average, disadvantaged children are four months behind at age five. That grows by an additional six months by the age of 11, and a further nine months by the age of 16.

So, by the time they take their GCSEs they are, on average, 19 months behind their peers.

Then what? Well as I’ve said, your education stays with you.

Children with poor vocabulary at age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed when they are aged 34.

It’s command of language, being able to express ourselves effectively, that is the gateway to success in school – and later on into later life.

As I said earlier, more than a quarter – 28% – of children finish their reception year still without the early communication and reading skills they need to thrive. It’s not acceptable and tackling it must be our shared priority. My ambition is to cut that number in half over the next ten years.  https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/education-secretary-sets-vision-for-boosting-social-mobility

Now money and Opportunity Areas may help, but how about inviting the script writers from Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdate and the other soaps to a roundtable at Sanctuary Buildings to ask for some key plot lines. When did a school parent’s evening last feature in a soap? Indeed, how often do schools appear in soaps? More often they are relegated to their own genre. A national campaign using soft media such as the soaps to encourage families to support their children’s early and continued learning might help to shift attitudes to closing the gap the Secretary of State was highlighting in his speech.

As he said, the DfE has looked at the progress of children on free school meals early in the century and found that

Children eligible for Free School Meals when they are at school are 23% less likely to be in sustained employment at the age of 27, compared to their peers.

Now many of these adults are no doubt are in areas of high unemployment, but the more you make use of the education system, the greater it seems is your chance of employment as an adult. As Jack Tizard and his fellow researchers found in their study in Haringey in the 1970s, even parents that couldn’t read themselves could sit and help a child with their reading with better results than other more education related programmes. Their study showed a highly significant improvement by children who received extra practice at home in comparison with control groups, but no comparable improvement by children who received extra help at school. The gains were made consistently by children of all ability levels.*

*COLLABORATION BETWEEN TEACHERS AND PARENTS IN ASSISTING CHILDREN’S READING  J TIZARDW. N. SCHOFIELDJENNY HEWISON First published: February 1982 British Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 51 Issue 1.

 

 

 

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Schools need to support not exclude adopted children

Some months ago I raised concerns about children being taken into care having to wait for long periods of time before being offered a school place when their foster placements ws some distance from any previous school. Such treatment of vulnerable children is not a good reflection on our education system. Sadly, this is still happening.

Now the BBC has published the results of a survey by Adoption UK into exclusions of adopted children, another vulnerable group of young people. This report makes for grim reading as well. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41915775

Adoption UK’s research estimates adopted children can be up to 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded than their peers.

The charity surveyed 2,084 of its members and found that of those with adopted children at school in 2015-16, 12% had had a fixed-term and 1.63% a permanent exclusion.

This compares with a rate of 4.29% for fixed and 0.08% for permanent exclusions across all state schools in England.

Adoption UK says that while its survey is indicative rather than scientific, it raises serious concerns.

Their web site is at: https://www.adoptionuk.org/  but I couldn’t find the survey when I looked.

The fact that there is a Minister of State for Children and Families should be a help in terms of government policy, but what is needed is a commitment to take action to support the education of vulnerable children at traumatic stages in their lives and a recognition that the effects can be long-lasting.

The dual and increasingly separate maintained and academy systems aren’t working for these children in many cases, as one group doesn’t have the money needed to offer effective help and the other often doesn’t seem to have the will, even though it has the ability to raise the cash.

I trust schools to do the best for ‘nice’ children supported by their parents, but I want them also to be supported to handle the more challenging of our young people as they set out on their lives. Exclusion and wiping your hands of the problem isn’t the answer.

If Paddington Bear can be thought of as a metaphor for an adopted child and can be falsely accused in the latest film of a crime he didn’t commit, then let us all pause for a moment and reflect upon not just our judgement, but also our treatment of adopted children. Sometimes being excluded must feel like being treated as a criminal and having done something wrong.

The adoption process in England is now being reorganised into larger regional agencies, but local authorities will still have to deal with the on-going responsibilities that result. From April 2018 the Virtual Schools will take on extra responsibilities for adopted children, on top of their already heavy workloads. But, as Adoption UK say, school staff should have better training around the needs of adopted children and for better support for these children throughout their schooling.

There is a further worry that the true extent of problem of exclusion is being masked because schools are regularly asking adoptive parents to take their children home and keep them out of school, without recording them as exclusions.

This is an area that Ofsted needs to inspect across a range of schools to uncover exactly what is happening.