Early learning gap for those in poverty widening

New analysis from Save the Children has revealed that the early learning gap between children in poverty and their peers has widened in 76 out of 152 local authorities.

The analysis of the disparity between preschool children in poverty and their peers reveals that progress in closing the early learning gap has stalled in 22 local authorities and is shrinking in 52, showing that the gap is widening for the first time in four years. This means that poorer children starting primary school across the country are being left further behind their classmates in skills such as speaking in full sentences, following simple instructions and expressing themselves.

The study found that the largest early learning gap is in West Berkshire, where disadvantaged five-year olds are 33 percentage points more likely than their classmates to have fallen behind. In comparison, Hackney is the only local authority in the country where there is no early learning gap at all.

Steven McIntosh, director of UK Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, said: “Our analysis shows that a lack of support for childcare quality in England is still letting poverty dictate children’s chances. Not only that, but the gulf between children in poverty and their peers is widening in many places.

“Children who start school without the tools to learn find it incredibly difficult to catch up, which risks further locking children into poverty in the future. The government has made welcome commitments to close the early learning gap. But they are ignoring an early years staffing crisis that will continue to undermine children’s potential – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is a national shortage of graduate early years teachers who are specifically trained to help children who are falling behind.”

The charity has also revealed a shortage of around 2,000 early years teachers in the most disadvantaged areas, where they are most needed.