SHINE has launched its new ‘Ready for School’ fund to help close the communication and language gap for 4-5 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds across the North of England.

Nationally, by the time children start school aged five, the gap between the communication and language skills developed by disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers can be as large as 15 months[1]. This problem is more profound in the North – the Early Years attainment gap is almost twice as large in the North than it is in London[2].

On Tuesday 4th September, members of the Education Select Committee visited Corrie Primary School in Tameside, the first of many ‘Ready for School’ programmes to be launched by SHINE in the North. This was part of the Committee’s two-day fact finding visit of the region in response to the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Educating the North report published earlier this year. The report set out 14 specific recommendations to close the educational attainment gap to the rest of the UK, and showed that the Early Years are crucial to the future educational success of the North.

Corrie Primary School serves a high proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and many of these children struggle with communication, language and maths skills when they arrive at Reception (aged 4-5).

With support and funding from SHINE, the school will be developing core maths skills in the Early Years through daily maths meetings in small groups, and whole-class sessions based around maths stories and song. The project will also focus on helping parents to develop and practice maths at home, helping them to complement the learning which takes place during school time. Each family will be provided with a ‘playbag’ which will include props, stories and a crib sheet of activities to be completed outside of school time. The school will then use social media to publicise and share children’s classwork with parents at home.

Naomi Cartledge, Headteacher at Corrie Primary and Nursery School, said: “Many children arrive at our school and they’re not ‘number ready’. They can also find it hard to communicate with their teacher. Without those basic skills, they then lag behind other students in maths as well as language for the rest of their time at our school.

“We strongly believe that all children should have the best start possible and that’s why we applied for funding from SHINE. By developing key skills early on and sustaining the intervention, we can set the best foundations for a child’s education. We can’t wait to start delivering this project and share our learning with other schools across the North West.”

Fiona Spellman, Chief Executive of SHINE said: “We are delighted to be announcing our first wave of Ready for School programmes to help narrow the communication and language gap across the North of England.

“We believe that all children should be given the opportunity to achieve the best possible qualifications so they can leave school with real choices for their future lives. These programmes will enable many young children to gain a better start to their education and to thrive throughout their time at school. We’re looking forward to working closely with all of our programmes to understand their impact and scale-up the most effective approaches.”

Lord Jim O’Neill, Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and SHINE Trustee, said: “Further to the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s recent report on education and skills, which highlighted how early years development is one of the priority issues that we must tackle in the North region, it is fantastic to see SHINE’s investment in this area. We’re looking forward to seeing further commitment to and investment in early years development across the region from the government and others.”

Find out more about the Ready for School fund and the programmes that we are funding in the North.

[1] www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/ready_to_Read_England.pdf

[2] Clifton J, Round A and Raikes L. (May 2016) Northern Schools: Putting Education at the Heart of the Northern Powerhouse – Page 3