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Encouraging children to develop language skills, read, and enjoy books at an early age is vital – and the earlier the better.
That’s the message from Scotland’s nursery inspectors as they back a campaign to improve children’s early language skills.
Research shows that young people who attend a high-quality nursery have a head start in the early years of primary school. Children living in poverty can be up to 18 months behind in their vocabulary skills by the age of five. Nurseries, childminders and other care centres can play an important role in tackling these issues early.
More than 9,000 nurseries, playgroups and childminders care for almost a quarter of a million children in Scotland. The Care Inspectorate has developed a resource to help inspectors support all early learning and childcare services to promote early language skills in the under fives.
Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “Ensuring children get the very best start in life is crucial to improving their life chances overall, and the Care Inspectorate has an important role to play in helping nurseries, childminders and playgroups across Scotland give children that positive start.
"Our new resource highlights some of the key things we expect to see in place in early years services. If children can develop a rich vocabulary and good language skills, it really gives them a headstart in life.
“Inspectors will use this as part of their inspection toolkit to help ensure children are having positive experiences, but we also encourage care staff and parents themselves to use it too, to help them develop their services and improve the way they meet children’s needs.
“Through our inspections we know that early learning and childcare in Scotland generally performs well, but our role is to drive up standards wherever we can. Working with nurseries, childminders and organisations like Save the Children, we can help close persistent gaps in attainment for poorer children.”
The move follows a campaign by Save the Children which highlights the fact that children from the most deprived areas are twice as likely to experience difficulties in language development by the time they start school, compared with children who have never experienced poverty. The campaign set a goal to ensure that every child has a good level of language skills by the age of five and recommended that inspection services play a key role in achieving this.
Neil Mathers of Save the Children said: “Supporting children to develop their early language skills before starting school is crucial to ensuring children thrive in their learning. But we know that too many of the poorest children are struggling.
Early support was the focus of Save the Children’s 2015 report, Ready to Read. It showed the vast difference that high quality nurseries and early years services can make.
“Ready to Read explains that tackling educational inequalities can only be achieved if we commit to boosting the early language skills of children living in Scotland’s most deprived areas.We are delighted that the Care Inspectorate has taken this learning on board and is putting it into practice as it inspects and supports improvement across early years care.”
Other articles published in our March 2017 newsletter: