One in three Leeds children can’t read or add up

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Thousands of children in Leeds are missing out on key educational targets in their first year of school.

New figures reveal nearly one-third of youngsters aged four and five are struggling to read or add up.

And more than 40 per cent of the city’s youngsters are failing to reach the required standard for their writing.

Shocking statistics show 2,570 children also went into their first year of school struggling to speak.

Education officials are aiming to launch a new initiative to help make sure children are ready for learning when they start school.

Lessons in life for city’s children...

Thousands of youngsters in leeds are missing out on achieving key educational targets set by the government before they start school. laura bowyer reports.

Starting school is an incredibly daunting time for any child.

For most children it will be the biggest event ever to happen in their short lives.

Being prepared for learning can help to make a massive difference to their future success at school.

But today the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal thousands of youngsters are missing out on achieving key educational targets set by the Government before their first year of school.

Figures show more than one-third of children were unable to read to the expected standards and over 40 per cent of youngsters were unable to write properly in their first year in the classroom.

And children are turning up on their first day of school unable to speak English and needing help to go to the toilet.

The figures, which were taken from assessments at the end of Foundation Stage and at the start of Year One last year, show that 3,445 youngsters in Leeds haven’t managed to hit the right targets for mathematics and 3,039 are unable to read properly.

Around 2,570 of the city’s children are also struggling to speak when they start school.

Wide-ranging research among the city’s primary schools by education bosses has revealed a high number of children, aged four or five, who are at very low stage of development, with many coming in to their first year of school with nappies on, unable to eat with a knife and fork and many speaking no English at all.

Shocking statistics released earlier this year ranked Leeds 152nd out of 152 local authorities in the early years stage foundation stage ‘low achievers gap’.

The city is eight per cent behind the national average.

But Leeds is on a mission to make sure that children don’t slip through the net when it comes to learning.

A new initiative Life Ready for Learning aims to help some of the most vulnerable children in Leeds to achieve in the classroom.

Headteacher Sarah Rutty, who is lead headteacher of Life Ready for Learning initiative, said: “Leeds is a city where there is a diversity of families.

“There are those where children arrive at school when they are three or four and they are ready to learn.

“But there are children who for a range of factors arrive at school where they are less ready for learning.

“Our ambition is to make it a more equal landscape for learning.

“Leeds has been identified because there are pockets of wealth and more vulnerable families.

“We are wanting to create a life where everyone is ready for learning.”

This co-ordinated approach will see education chiefs working alongside Early Years teams, social workers and Public Health officials to identify those children who are at risk of slipping through the net.

They hope that this pro-active approach will help children and their families to boost their achievements inside and outside the classroom.

And it will compliment Leeds’s efforts to be named the most child friendly city in the country.

Ms Rutty added: “The Government expects children to arrive at three or four hitting key milestones.

“A significant minority of children are not.

“There are children who have never shared a book or been out shopping and counted their money.

“There are a number of areas where children are arriving in school well below these age related expectations.

“There are some who have not accessed early years provision already and there are others who have not had opportunities to socialise.

“There are a variety of social factors.”

And families can help to play a vital role with just a few simple changes. Whether it is sharing a book, having a conversation over meals or drawing pictures – these can all help to make a difference to children.

Ms Rutty added: “Families can help and it is almost so simple it is obvious.

“It can be sharing books with children, opportunities to sit down and be social with children.

“One of the greatest things you can do is to eat as a family twice a week and have conversations around the table.

“It can be walks in the park and talking about what you have seen and drawing pictures.

“It is about adults and children talking about things and listening to each other.

“Education is not about delivering a curriculum it is about developing a whole child and it is about working with families that grow and support those children.

“Leeds has established that as a key ambition. It is about continuing to make sure everyone is working in partnership as we are all serving the same families.

“It is a really important aspect of creating a child friendly and family friendly city.

“We are developing lives ready for learning and continue to build on these to make sure Leeds really is the best place to be.”

And the city’s network of children’s centres help to reach out to families and offer support in the community.

Nas Draxler, manager at Little London Children’s Centre, said the teams work in partnership with parents in a “holistic way” to support children.

They hold workshops and courses for parents to show them a a variety of ways to help them interact, play and read with their youngsters.

Ms Draxler said: “It is about making sure you get them on board right from a early age through to school.

“We offer family learning courses for parents and we have workshops to show parents the kinds of activities they can do with their children.”

And she said it is easy to spot the signs when children are not hitting the targets set by Government education chiefs.

Ms Draxler added: “It is very easy to recognise when children are not ready for school. It is not about sitting in front of the television. It is human interaction whether it is reading or singing.

“It is interaction and sharing and bonding that gives a child that emotional wellbeing.”

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children and families said every child is “unique” and parents play an important role.

She said: “Starting primary school is often the biggest event ever to happen in a child’s young life and being well prepared they are before they start, can make a massive difference to their future success at school. A parent’s role is so important in helping children develop in their early years.

“Providing a stimulating and encouraging environment, where reading and conversing are part of daily life, is a great way to help prepare your child for the next stage of their life.

“Every child is unique, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for making sure a child is ready to start school.

“All children are constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured; they can learn to be strong and independent and form positive relationships, but to achieve this they need great foundations, which are best provided by parents working in partnership with early years carers.”

Helping to prepare for your child’s first day at school

With a bit of planning and preparation parents can make sure their little-one is ready to take on the challenge of ‘big school’.

Playing schools with your child is a good way of preparing them, as well as reading one of the many stories about first days at school.

Rehearse the school routine: One of the best ways a parent can prepare their child is through talking to them – chatting about routines, what will happen, their teacher, their classroom, how their child feels about it.

Encourage lots of reading time at home and visits to the library.

Children at school have to do things you’d normally do for them at home, remember to them clothes they can manage themselves with no awkward buttons or tricky zips.

Practice the school run: It’s worth taking the route you’ll usually go to school with your child.

Label your child’s clothes and show your child where you’ve put their name.

Make sure children know how to use the toilet and teach them how to flush the toilet and wash their hands afterwards.

Get your child involved in buying a school bag, lunchbox (if needed), pencil case and encourage them to get their school clothes ready the night before.

Help your child to develop more social skills outside school by taking them to see people, especially if they also have children, showing them what sharing means and encouraging them to have conversations.

Parents are encouraged to involve their young children in family conversations, and help them experience rich and complex language.

Helping children understand their world by talking about people, places and the environment can also get them ready to learn.

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