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Gap between brightest and lowest performing five-year-olds in Cambridgeshire is getting bigger

The attainment gap between the lowest-performing five-year-olds and their peers widened last year in Cambridgeshire, figures reveal.

With the disparity growing across England, the teachers' union the NASUWT says a failure to tackle increasing social inequality has led to "dire consequences" for some young children.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is an assessment of a child’s development at the age of five, typically done at the end of their Reception year.

Attainment gap for five-year-olds widened last year in Cambridgeshire's schools. (30204584)
Attainment gap for five-year-olds widened last year in Cambridgeshire's schools. (30204584)

A teacher assesses a child’s ability in literacy and maths, their social, emotional and physical development, and communication skills.

They then give them a score from one to three across 17 learning goals, with the highest number indicating that they have exceeded expectations.

Department for Education statistics show the average score for the lowest-attaining 20 per cent of children in Cambridgeshire was 23.0 in 2018-19, compared to a median of 34.0 for all children.

It means those struggling the most scored 32.4 per cent lower than the average for all pupils – slightly higher than the gap for the previous year, when it was 31.1 per cent, but slightly narrower than 33.9 per cent in 2012-13.

The median is a measure used to exclude extreme values which could skew the average.

Across England, the same gap has crept up over the last five-year period, to 32.4 per cent last year, although this was still lower than the 36.6 per cent in 2012-13.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The Government’s failure to take action to address widening social and economic inequality is having dire consequences on the educational progress of children from an early age.

“The Government has driven austerity policies that have resulted in deep cuts to early education, intervention and family support, increased rates of child poverty and the teacher supply crisis which are impacting on all children, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds."

She added that the DfE figures highlighted the need for investment in education and services for children and families to be made a priority.

Liz Bayram, chief executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said she recognised that the hard work of those in early years education meant the majority of children are reaching their full potential, but added that “most is not good enough”.

She said: “Children living with disadvantage, be that poverty, special educational needs and disabilities or other issues continue to be left behind.

“The Government needs to redouble its effort to ensure these children enjoy the full benefit of a high-quality early education in the same way that their peers do.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are reforming the Early Years Foundation Stage framework to improve outcomes for all children at age five, especially disadvantaged children.

“We also know children’s earliest years before school are important, which is why we launched Hungry Little Minds – a three-year campaign to help parents support their child’s early language development, to set them up for school and beyond.”

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