Time to ask, just how worried are Minister's about the gap?

Posted by / Tuesday 05 December 2017 / Early intervention Inequality
young boy rubbing eye on white backdrop

Statistical release from central government don't always bring good news for Ministers. In fact they can often be the cause of mild panic.

But the Early Years Foundation Stage Results (EYSFP) have often been a cause for celebration every year.  Since 2013, when a revised framework was introduced, the percentage of children reaching a Good Level of Development (GLD) - the benchmark for being school ready used by Public Health England amongst others - has increased from 51.7% in 2013 to 70.7% in 2017.

This means more and more children have hit important developmental milestones around communication, literacy, numeracy, language and their behavioural and emotional development. This is helping to set them up for doing their best at primary school, secondary school and in later life.

young girl looking down with slight smile on white backdrop

But there has been a longstanding challenge in helping children from low income background reach a GLD. In 2013, only 36% of children from low income families hit the benchmark. This has risen to 56% in 2017. As headlines go, this sounds great.

However, the improvement is partly due to how far behind disadvantaged children were. The real challenge lies in closing the gap in outcomes between children in low income families and their peers. On this front, the results make for less positive reading. Since 2013 the gap has only closed 2% - the rate the gap is closing has slowed year-on-year.

Closing the gap is no doubt a challenge. Many things can influence a child's early development. Local health professionals, like Health Visitors, make sure any early problems are quickly picked up. Good quality early education can make a huge difference and help children who might be falling behind. But what happens at home, in particular what parents do, also has a big influence. Local family support services, like children's centres and family hubs, can help equip parents with the skills to give their children the best start in life.

Children's centres have been closing at a rate of one a week since 2010. At the same time, council spending on children's centres has fallen from £1.4 billion in 2010/11 to £737 million in 2015/16. This means the services which can help either don’t exist or lack the resources to do their bit. The now shelved children's centre consultation reflects a lack of direction from central government. Two thirds (63%) of local councillors lay the blame for challenges at the door of central government. 

This is why Action for Children are campaigning to ensure that the Government haven't forgotten their promise to give every child the best start in life. Sign up here and get involved. Adding your voice will make sure that if Minister’s aren’t worried about closing the gap, with public pressure they soon will be.