Good communication skills provide a vital foundation for children and young people to build on. Vocabulary at age five has been found to be the best predictor of whether children who experienced social deprivation in childhood were able to ‘buck the trend’ and escape poverty in later adult life. The gaps in language development can be seen from an early age. On average, 40% of the overall gap between disadvantaged 16-year-olds and their peers has already emerged by the age of five. By the age of three, more disadvantaged children are – on average – already almost a full year and a half behind their more affluent peers in their early language development. These gaps have a lasting detrimental impact on social mobility. Children who arrive at school with good communication skills will find it easier to learn, while those already behind will face a growing challenge: early advantage accumulates, but so too does early disadvantage.
In Luton, the proportion of children achieving a good level of development at aged five has increased year on year and in 2018 was 69% compared to 72% nationally. Attainment in these areas has certainly improved but there is still more that we need to do. In Luton we are able to track the attainment of funded 2-year olds to make sure that our disadvantaged children are making good progress. Many providers use LATS software (Luton Assessment Tracking System) to collect and analyse information about children’s attainment. This information is collected by the local authority to help us to understand needs and to identify those areas where additional support is required. Luton provides high quality childcare with 95.5% of early years providers being judged as good or outstanding. This has increased over the last year by 2.6 percentage points and by 6.1 over the last two years, it is also above the national average. We also know that children who attend an early years provision in Luton have much better outcomes at the end of their Reception year than children who did not attend a Luton provider.
This is an ideal platform on which to build the Early Outcomes project in Luton – a project which is set to capture the enthusiasm of the early years workforce; to engage in training and to ‘take away’ resources and new skills that could make a really positive difference to the life chances of the children in their care.