Five-year-olds not ready for school


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The Independent Online

Thousands of five-year-olds are arriving at school with too limited a vocabulary to take part in lessons, a senior government adviser revealed today.

Even  some in high performing schools ion the leafier suburbs are struggling, Dr Liz Sidwell, the Government's Schools Commissioner, told a conference in London today.

Dr Sidwell, whose job means she advises ministers on tackling under-performance and its flagship academies programme, warned that one of the biggest problems was parents just not getting out of bed in the morning to send their children off to school.

“If your parents are lying in bed and don’t go to work, it is very difficult to get the children up on time” she said. “This is something we really can’t have.”

She revealed she had devised five golden rules for good parenting which she urged schools to pass on.

These were: get up in the morning, give your children some breakfast, send them off to school on time and make sure you talk to them during the day.

“How can we get these children to come to school on time if this is happening?” she said.  Even high achieving schools were affected.

“Children at five are coming in with lower and lower ability to get on with their work,” she added.

“At the moment children aren’t ready for school at five.”

Figures showed that five-year-olds from disadvantaged homes were likely to be at least a year behind in their vocabulary when they first started school.

In addition, 1.9 million schoolchildren came from workless homes.

Figures also showed that 700 primary schools failed to reach the Government’s minimum target of 60 per cent of pupils reaching the required standard in maths and English by the age of 11.

 Around 200 have failed to reach the minimum target for five years in succession.

Dr Sidwell,. speaking at a conference of the Forum of Independent Day Schools – made up of largely former direct grant schools who went independent when Labour introduced its comprehensive drive in the 1970’s rather than abandon selection, urge independent schools to sponsor local primary schools.

They need not part with cash but could pass on their expertise to the schools, she said.

Dr Sidwell also urged oversubscribed academies to consider introducing a lottery system to determine school admissions.

She said lotteries were popular with parents because they understood them as many of them did the lottery in their spare time.

Earlier, Toby Young, the journalist and founder of the West London free school, revealed his school used a lottery to help determine admissions to avoid middle class parents snapping up all the places by buying higher priced homes near the school.

The school allocated 45 per cent of places on proximity to it, the majority of the rest were viay amongst those who lives within a 1.5 mile radius of the school with a smaller number going via a separate lottery for those within three miles of the school.  In addition 10 per cent of places were for those children with musical aptitude.

Dr Sidwell also called for stiffer targets for secondary schools.  At present the minimum target is 35 per cent of pupils getting five or more A* to C grade passes including maths and English rising to 50 per cent by 2015.

“I believe there should be 80 per cent,” she said.  “We have a long way to go.”

Meanwhile a commission was launched today to examine the academies programme.  Chaired by former chief schools inspector Christine Gilbert, it will examine admissions policies and the use which academies are making of their freedom from local authority control.