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Children starting school unable to speak or read is a “scandal,” Damian Hinds gives home truths to parents

child learning from parents

It is a “scandal” that some children starting school still struggle to speak or read “simple words”, Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, shed some light on social mobility in his first speech.


Mr Hinds insists he does not plan to “lecture” parents on their parenting, but merely to offer advice on what can be done in the home environment to prevent children from falling behind in school.


Speaking at the Resolution Foundation in London yesterday (Tuesday 31st July 2018), Mr Hinds warned parents to take action, as children who lack proper communication but are due to begin schooling at the age of four “rarely catch up.”


He added: “Your peers don’t wait. The gap just widens. This has a huge impact on social mobility.”

He also vowed to challenge the “last taboo” in education by calling out parents, who are not playing their part in helping children “communicate in full sentence.”

He continued: “The truth is that the vast majority of these children’s time is at home. Yes, the home learning environment can be, understandably, the last taboo in education policy – but we can’t afford to ignore it when it comes to social mobility.


“I know it’s parents who bring up their children, who love them, who invest in them in so many ways, who want the best for their children. But that doesn’t mean extra support and advice can’t be helpful.”

His comments were evidenced by recent statistics from the Department of Education (DfE), which found that 28 per cent of four and five-year-olds lacked the required early communication and literacy skills, expected by the end of reception.

The data also highlights that such percentage increases in areas more deprived.


Young children, without adequate vocabulary at age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34, as children with better vocabulary.

As part of Mr Hinds’ attempt to tackle the problem, he has promised to halve the number of pupils starting school with poor literacy skills, by 2028.

He also pledged to introduce a combination of business leaders, charities, media groups and a particular focus on tech companies, to launch practical ways that encourages parents to support their child’s speech therapy.

While Mr Hinds shared his “legitimate worries about screen time;” however, he hopes that technology will add value in his aim to “build parents’ confidence” around early language development.


An awareness-raising campaign – much like the five-a-day campaign, which is a health campaign that encourages more people to consume fruit and vegetables – could be introduced to help change parents’ attitude towards the issue.

Mr Hinds highlighted that most pre-school children spend the majority of their time at home, which is why the government is keen to explore pupils’ “home learning environment.”

But Head of Ofsted, Amanda Speilman, believes more could be done at school, as some children from deprived areas are short of learning resources at home in comparison to their peers from more advanced areas.

She urges nursery staff to teach pre-school children new language skills, whether that be through songs or nursery rhymes.


Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of I Can, the children’s communication charity, is open to Mr Hinds’ upcoming plans but said that the coalition of charities and businesses must contain experts with previous experience of supporting children in need of speech, language and communication therapy.

He said: “Research shows that in some areas of deprivation, 50% of children are starting school well behind their peers in language development.

“Without support, the gap between these children and other children will continue to widen, year on year, putting their life chances at risk.”


August 1, 2018