Thousands of children are lacking in 'school-readiness'


Tens of thousands of ill-prepared primary school pupils lack social skills, have speech problems and poor personal hygiene, a national study has found.

Almost one-third of new starters are not considered to be ready for the classroom, according to primary school leaders.

The State of Education report, by schools leaders service The Key, estimated that at least 194,000 pupils could be starting ill-prepared for the classroom come September.

child writing in a work book
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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 the 1,188 primary school leaders surveyed also said that under-prepared pupils are arriving with reading (58%), writing (56%) and numerical levels (55%) below the standard they would expect.

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. One headteacher said four-year-olds "know how to swipe a phone but haven't a clue about conversations".

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Speaking about the findings Fergal Roche, The Key chief executive, said: "School leaders are already struggling to retain staff and manage their teachers' workload, so add thousands more pupils arriving ill-prepared for the classroom to the equation, and the burden placed on our schools will be huge.

"To lessen this load more should to be done to ensure children are arriving at school with the skills they need to learn.

"An agreed definition of what 'school-readiness' means, could be the first step to helping schools, parents and early years practitioners identify what national or localised support is required to meet this growing issue."

secondary school pupil at a computer
(Rui Vieira/PA)

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 under-prepared, 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.