Poor children's life chances determined by age seven


More than a fifth of children in England have already fallen permanently behind by the age of seven, according to a new report by Save the Children.

The charity says being behind at reading, writing and arithmetic at such a young age can prejudice a child’s future earnings, health and, in economic terms, cost the country billions in lost revenue.

By the time they are seven, nearly 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined. If the trends seen between 2007 and 2012 are continued, around half a million children risk not reading properly by the age of seven by 2020, the report says.

Save the Children says the first two years a child is at school is a crucial window during which to close the attainment gap, and called for more focus and investment on five to seven-year-olds.

 National Literacy Trust director, Jonathan Douglas, said: "In the current financial climate, we firmly believe that tackling low literacy in disadvantaged communities, with a particular focus on supporting younger children to read must be an integral part of the Government’s efforts to reduce child poverty. Low levels of literacy and living in poverty create a mutually reinforcing cycle that is difficult to break.

"We must work together across all sectors to turn the tide on the intergenerational cycle of poverty and focus on practical ways of raising literacy levels, which may need to happen beyond the school gates. Only then will the country’s poorest families have the chance to secure a better future."

The 'Too Young to Fail' report shows that, through no fault of their own, poorer children as young as seven are on course for poorer life chances.

While progress has been made over the past decade in improving the achievement of the poorest children, the scale of the problem is challenging. Seven-year-old children from poor families are still consistently more likely to fall behind in critical skills such as reading.

Modelling carried out for the report also shows the enduring cost to the nation’s economy in wasted talent.

Meanwhile, the squeeze on living standards is making it harder for parents to support their children’s education.

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