York education gap is ‘failing a significant proportion of children in this city’

The figures come from a national education charity. Photograph: NeiFo on Pixabay
29 Apr 2018 @ 9.42 pm
| Education

Half of York children from disadvantaged backgrounds were not ready for school when they started Reception.

And only 46 per cent of children who qualify for free school meals in York were assessed as “ready for school” by Year 1. That puts the city among the four worst performing areas in the country.

Morever York has the biggest gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers of anywhere in England – 31 per cent.

“School readiness” is judged on things like being able to pay attention, share and play well with other children.

National data, which has been analysed by the education charity Teach First, shows that in York last year, 74 per cent of all children were ready for school – making the city quite high performing compared to other areas.

When it comes to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, however, York struggles.

‘Unwelcome statistic’

Jonny Crawshaw. Photograph: York Labour Party / YouTube
Labour’s education spokesman Cllr Jonny Crawshaw says this gap persists as an educational attainment gap between the two groups of pupils throughout their school years.

Teach First’s figures show that, for children who started school in York in 2015, the “school readiness” gap of 21 per cent was still there two years later in an attainment gap of 22 per cent in the Key Stage One results.

Cllr Crawshaw said:

This is yet another unwelcome statistic for York which must act as a wake up call to this Tory-Lib Dem ruling coalition.

The message is clear – York needs to prioritise support for families at an early stage.

We know that early intervention works – and saves money in the long term – so it seems completely counter-intuitive that this council has cut significant amounts from early intervention services in recent years.

He added: “It’s quite clear that this administration’s policies are failing a significant proportion of children and young people in this city.”

Labour wanted to spend an extra £280,000 on work to reduce the attainment gap and school readiness, Cllr Crawshaw said, but the proposal was voted down by the Conservatives and Lib Dem ruling coalition.

Making a difference

Council leaders say they are using a number of strategies to turn things around. Photograph © Celia Ortega on Unsplash

Cllr Keith Myers, City of York’s Conservative executive member for education, said they were not convinced Labour’s proposals would be as effective as the 30 hour free childcare provision which was trialled in York before its national roll-out.

Cllr Myers added: “Issues surrounding school attainment are complex and children’s readiness for school rests on a variety of factors.

“Rather than focus on limited projects we want to see all of York’s children thrive through a mixture of evidence-based programmes and our council’s well-respected work with young children together with our effective partnerships with York’s childcare providers and schools.”

The council is considering health visitor checks for three-year-olds, to help make sure children are ready for school.

If problems in things like language development are noticed when children are three, families can be offered help in time to make a difference before children get to school at five years, council public health bosses have said.

The department has also increased the number of children getting statutory two-year-old health visitor checks in recent years, from 22.4 per cent when it moved from the NHS to the local authority in April 2016, to 62.1 per cent at the end of 2017.

City of York Council education director Jon Stonehouse said they were working with networks of early years providers on “effective transitions” and on sharing best practice around the sector to close the gap.

He added: “Evidence from our schools shows that the formal teaching of oracy, literacy and number skills has the greatest impact on improving outcomes for the pupil premium cohort at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage when the child is five, and makes the greatest difference in terms of school readiness.”