How young is too young? Ofsted inspector suggests children should start school at two

Starting children this young could eradicate the effects of poverty on their performance

Education Editor

Children should be admitted to school from the age of two to eradicate the effects of poverty on their performance, a senior Ofsted officer said yesterday.

Baroness Morgan, who chairs the education standards watchdog, called for a network of academies for two to 18-year-olds to be set up around the country so that children from poorer homes were ready for school at the age of five.

At present, they are already 19 months behind their more affluent peers when they start compulsory schooling at the age of five.

She chose an event staged by the ARK academy chain to mark 10 years of the academies movement, to set out her vision for the future, saying targeting disadvantaged under-fives had to be “the next big, bold, brave move” in the education agenda.

“Poor under-fives are still 19 months behind their affluent peers when they start school at five,” she said. “What a dire start to their educational lives.

“They have low level skills, they’re not ready to learn at school.  Weak parenting, low educational attainments of their parents, poor diet and poor housing all affect the gap between the affluent and disadvantaged as groups.”

Baroness Morgan said the education system collectively “haven’t really taken a grip of this problem”. Efforts to conquer disadvantage had been targeted on children from the age of five upwards. “We haven’t got much improvement in provision for the under-fives,” she added.

She said the next “brave” move in education should be to tackle “geographical unfairness” and a “big, bold, brave move on the under-fives agenda to target the funding on those who will benefit most”.

“We have got to learn from the lessons we now have in London,” she added. Performance had increased dramatically as a result of initiatives like the Teach First scheme - recruiting the brightest graduates to inner city schools.  As a result, while 59 per cent of pupils on free school meals obtained five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including maths and English.

Baroness Morgan also argued that the “pupil premium” - which gives schools extra funding for every pupil they admit on free school meals - should be extended to cover under-fives provision.

Her comments come as Ofsted launched a shake-up of nursery and preschool inspections in the wake of evidence that 157,000 under-fives are placed in setting which do not deliver a good standard. Ofsted is warning settings could lose their registration - and effectively close - if they fail to improve.

ARK said four of its 27 academies were already offering places to three to 18-year-olds as part of an attempt to eradicate disadvantage in education. The majority of its primary academies have nurseries attached.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We know that teacher-led early-years education has a positive impact on children - especially on those from low income families.

"That was why ministers were making it easier for schools take children at that age by removing the need for them to be registered by Ofsted and providing 15 hours of free education for 240,000 of the poorest two-year-olds."

At the seminar, John Coles, director of United Learning - another major academy chain, said that - while academies had improved at a faster rate than other schools - there was still some unevenness in performance.

What evidence there was of improvement was not down to new buildings or innovative use of their freedoms (from local authority control). Every successful education system in the world was indebted to the quality of its teachers and leaders.

Lucy Heller, from ARK, added that the structure by itself would not transform anything. It was up to individuals to make the best use of the structure.

She called for an end to the “phoney war” between teachers and the Government.

She said: “The current Government has a huge base of natural supporters but they’re sometimes alienating them by the language they use - particularly in relation to teachers.

“It is time for a period of calm and consolidation.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star