A third of children not primary school ready


Almost a third of children who start school are not considered to be ready for the classroom, according to primary school leaders in a new report published by The Key.

The report, based on the views of more than 1,100 school leaders, reveals that almost all (99.5%) primary school leaders say a proportion of their pupils are joining school below the level of school-readiness they expect and nearly a third (31%) believe that over 50% of their new starters are arriving underprepared. This means fewer than one in 100 (0.5%) school leaders consider all of their pupils to be at the expected level when they start.

Lack of social skills (79%), delayed speech (78%) and deficient self-help skills/resilience (69%) are believed to be the most common reasons for children not being at the expected level when they enter school. More than half of primary school leaders also say that underprepared pupils are arriving with reading (58%), writing (56%) and numerical levels (55%) below the standard they’d anticipate.

While some heads said that pupils were arriving without toilet training, others commented on the impact of technology on children being ready for the classroom.

At secondary school level, the majority of school leaders cited low reading levels (chosen by 76%) as one of the most common reasons for children arriving underprepared, along with lower than expected standards of writing (63%) and numeracy (56%). However, fewer pupils joining secondary schools are thought to be below the expected standard than those joining primary schools. One in 10 (10%) secondary school leaders believe that more than half of their new pupils are ill-prepared, while three in 10 (30%) think that 1-10% of pupils are below expected standards.

School leaders at both primary and secondary levels across the country paint a similar picture, though the problem appears more prevalent in the north. Over a third of leaders in schools in the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the north east (39%, 37% and 34%, respectively) say more than half of their new pupils are not ready for school. London was close behind, with 32% of school leaders believing this, followed by the south west (26%) and south east (21%).

Clare McGread, Head of Communities and Early Years at the National Literacy Trust, said: “It’s concerning to see school leaders report that so many children are starting primary school without the skills they need. Parents play a crucial role in supporting their child’s early language and communication development, but many lack confidence in how to support their child’s early learning."