'Education underclass' of children in the UK is still in nappies when they start school

Report slams Britain's poorest parents for not preparing their children to begin lessons at five, and criticises education system for not doing more to promote 'social justice'

An ‘education underclass’ in Britain is starting school at the age of five with some still in nappies, unable to speak or not even recognising their own name, according to a controversial new study.

Headteachers told researchers that in some cases children from the poorest backgrounds arrived at their first school still behaving like they were 18 or even 12 months old.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank called the evidence it had compiled between 2007 and 2012 “heart-breaking”, and said some children had such terrible early home lives that they were condemned to be at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

The study also revealed that many hundreds of thousands of teenagers leave school every year without achieving adequate GCSEs, and that boys from poor, white backgrounds were falling further behind their classmates than any other identified group.

“These children are starting school drastically behind the levels of development expected of their age,” the CSJ, a centre-right organisation founded by former leader of the Conservative party Iain Duncan Smith, said.

“The early years experiences endured by these children have been so abysmal that they begin compulsory schooling absolutely not ready for learning and, potentially, permanently disadvantaged.”

One headteacher told the think tank: “In the last three years we have had to toilet train children who came to school in nappies at age five. Parents ask me how we managed to do it. Many of them just can't be bothered, they think it's our responsibility to do it for them.”

Another said that it was very common for youngsters to start school unable to cope, with three-year-olds who “commonly act like 12 to 18-month-olds”.

“'They don't even have the concentration to talk and say an answer in any kind of sentence,” she said.

“We've had children that don't answer to their name. They don't recognise their name...they're not toilet trained.”

The CSJ largely blames parents for the findings, who the report said were unaware of the key milestones their children should be meeting in advance of starting school.

Sir Robin Bosher, chairman of the group that drew up the report, said that one in ten children he observed was “so unsociable that they hurt others, adults and other young children”.

Statistics cited by the report showed that one in eight five-year-olds cannot write their own name or other words from memory, while 6 per cent of boys of this age group did not know that print is read from left to right and top to bottom.

The study also looked at GCSE performance and found that white boys on free school meals - a key measure of poverty - perform “much worse” than other deprived groups.

Sir Robin, who is also director of primary education at the Harris Federation of Academies, said: “Educational failure is too common in our current system. It affects disadvantaged children and makes reform urgent. This is about social justice. We need to do more to make sure all children are given a good education.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test