MORE than a third of children in Bolton are classed as not “school ready” ­— which effectively means their life-chances are already being limited.


CUTS and increasing pressures on families are being blamed for 34.5 per cent of Bolton children being classed as not “school ready” at the age of five ­— meaning they have not reached the expected level of development needed to get their primary school education off to a flying start.

For boys the figure is even worse, with only 57 per cent of boys reaching the expected level of development.

Early learning goals that children are measured in are: listening and attention; understanding; speaking; moving and handling, health and self-care, self-confidence and self-awareness; managing feelings and behaviour; making relationships; reading; writing; numbers; shape space and measures; people and communities; the world, technology, exploring and using media and materials and being imaginative.

Figures show that 65.5 per cent of youngsters in Bolton achieved the expected level across all learning goals in­ 2019— slightly down compared to the previous year.

Nationally the figure stood at 70.7 per cent.

For Bolton girls that figure stood at 74.4 per cent ­— compared to 77.6 per cent nationally.

And only 57 per cent of Bolton boys achieved the required development compared to the national average of 64 per cent.

The percentage of Bolton children achieving a better ‘good’ level of development ­— 67.3 per cent ­— was below the national average of 71.8 per cent.

Again, Bolton girls outperformed boys, with 75.8 per cent recording a good level of development.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “While Bolton is below the national average for school readiness, we are closing the gap thanks to a number of early interventions and development strategies.

“We engage with families from an early stage to promote home learning and stress the importance of children arriving at school with the language and communication skills needed to learn.

“School readiness assessments take place at the end of Reception Class, but our results show that the majority of children have caught up with their classmates by the end of Key Stage 1.”

Julia Simpkins, secretary of the Bolton-branch of the National Education Union said funding cuts, along with increasing pressures on families, were among the factors responsible for the high numbers of children who are not school ready.

And she called for more investment in early years education to make it affordable for parents and ensure all children get the best start in life.

Health bosses say that it is “vital” that children are “ready to make the most of school” and those fall behind at this early stage will struggle to catch up.

Research has shown that lack of school readiness can have a long-term impact on their education ­— even impacting on the grades they are likely to get at GCSE.

Ms Simpkins said: “At a most basic level more children are starting reception classes without the necessary toilet training.

“Under safeguarding rules two members of staff have to attend to that child and that takes them away from other children.

“So staff are having to do this as well as everything the government expects.”

She said rising costs of living meant both parents have to work to pay the mortgage and the bills so helping children develop habits such as using the toilet and using knife and forks was becoming increasingly difficult.

Ms Simpkins said that funding cuts meant that issues were not being picked up in a timely manner.

“When I started teaching a speech therapist used to visit school to work with the children who needed specialist help, the funding was cut and parents were asked to take their children to the health centre for sessions, and then parents were asked to travel further for the sessions.

“Some parents could take their children, others couldn’t afford to and others could not have the time off work.

“By not receiving the help they need at the age has an impact not just on their education but their life,” she said.

Ms Simpkins called on more investment to be made in nursery education and children’s centres to help parents.

“Nurseries are there to help children develop these skills, but the reason parents do not send them five days a week is because they are too expensive Nurseries should the best staff and the best environment but parents need the help so they can send their children to nurseries.”

She called on money spent on constant testing to be invested back in the system for children.

A national report by the National Association of Head Teachers found that school leaders said believed a number of factors were thought to be responsible for lack of school readiness amongst children:

n Failure to identify and support additional needs early enough

n Parents have less available resources/ pressure of parents and family life

n Reduction in local services to support families

Inadequate school funding being a barrier to improving school readiness, was raised in the report with school leaders highlighting particular concerns about communication skills and physical development.