Two-year-olds in Leeds lack key childhood skills

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One in 11 children in Leeds lack the key skills of early childhood at age two, new figures show.

A leading children’s charity has warned about the impact of poverty on child development, after new statistics revealed significant differences in crucial early years abilities across England.

Public Health England data found that 9 per cent of the 1,701 youngsters tested in the area did not meet expectations in communication, problem solving, social interaction, fine motor skills (holding objects and drawing) and gross motor skills such as running and walking. This was up from 7 per cent over the same period last year.

Every three months, experts examine thousands of children to check their development. The latest statistics, from January to March 2019, looked at more than 100,000 youngsters from 126 council areas. Those tested in Leeds outperformed their peers across Yorkshire and The Humber, where 12 per cent had not reached the expected level of development.

Action for Children says factors such as poverty, poor housing and low-paid work can prevent parents from providing safe and nurturing environments. Head of policy and research Eleanor Briggs said: “All children deserve the best start in life and these figures show that for too many this simply isn’t the case.”

She welcomed steps from the government to fund pilot projects to improve home environments but maintained such schemes will have little impact while early years services continue to face funding cuts.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are working with Public Health England and the NHS to modernise the Healthy Child programme which already ensures children and families receive five mandatory health visitor checks by the time they are two and a half. The recently published green paper on prevention will also seek views on how to help families keep healthy and well.”