“School readiness gap is gaping” warns Llyr Gruffydd
Not offering all 3-4 year olds in Wales 30 hours of free childcare risks leaving deprived children further behind, Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd has warned.
Mr Gruffydd said that children from deprived backgrounds are currently starting school at a disadvantage compared with children from more affluent backgrounds, and subsequently go on to get generally lower grades. Research by Save the Children has found that children who live in persistent poverty are twice as likely to score below average for language development at age five.
Bridging the so-called “school readiness gap” – the gap in preparedness for school between children from deprived backgrounds and those from more affluent ones – is crucial in breaking the cycle of low attainment, he said.
Llyr Gruffydd warned that the Welsh Government’s plans to limit the provision of 30 hours of free childcare to only children from working families will deepen the problem. He reiterated the view of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales who has said that the exclusion of children from non-working households may widen further the school readiness gap between this group and those with working parents.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd said:
“Plaid Cymru wants to ensure that all children have an equal chance of succeeding, but at the moment there is a clear link between deprivation and low attainment. Teachers tell us that children from more deprived background are often less prepared to start school, and their personal development is behind their counterparts from more affluent backgrounds. Research shows that children who live in persistent poverty are twice as likely to score below average for language development at five years.
“Breaking this cycle of disadvantage and low attainment is vitally important if we are to give everyone the best start in life.
“That’s why Plaid Cymru wants to give every 3-4 year old in Wales access to 30 hours of free early years education per week. This means providing them with good quality childcare that is led by well qualified staff. Experts say that universal provision of free early years education is the best way to lift children out of poverty, and that’s what Plaid Cymru wants to do.
“The Labour government is currently working towards providing free childcare for working families only. This clearly has benefits for those working parents, but risks leaving children from the most deprived families even further behind.
“Plaid Cymru wants all children to start school on an equal footing, and our proposals can do that. The school readiness gap is gaping, and it’s time for us to close it.”