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More Greater Manchester children starting school ready to learn

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has issued a rallying call to step up the pace of early year’s reform as work continues across the city-region to ensure that no child is left behind.

Andy Burnham was addressing more than 300 schools, public, private & voluntary sector organisations at the second Greater Manchester School Readiness Summit on Thursday 28 February, as new figures show the educational equality gap is starting to close.

Last year 12,000 children in Greater Manchester started school without the skills to learn, representing a third of children who started school last year in the city-region. 

However, this year there has been an increase in the number of children starting Year 1 with a ‘good level of development’, with approximately 200 more children starting school ready to learn.

Greater Manchester has led the way in tackling the issue of school readiness, with local authorities and other organisations working together to give children the best start.

The Mayor has since made school readiness a priority, championing Greater Manchester’s approach and helping to drive the city-region’s ambition to increase the number of children starting school ready to learn to above the national average by 2021.

Speaking at the event Andy Burnham said:

“At the inaugural school readiness summit in November 2017, I called on organisations to go further and faster to improve the number of children starting school ready to learn, building on our successes so far. Today, I can confidently say that thanks to commitment, collaboration and innovation we are moving in the right direction. More children started school this year with the skills to learn and reach their potential – a result of the pioneering work we are doing across the city-region.

“But we need to do much more if we are to ensure that no child is left behind. By continuing to do things differently and seize the opportunities of devolution, we can truly give our children the best start as they begin their educational journey – and that is my plea today.”

Attendees also heard from Lucy Powell MP, Greater Manchester’s political lead for school readiness, and Jon Rouse, Chief Officer, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

BBC Learning also shared the early findings of their work in Greater Manchester, working with the GMCA to develop, shape and pilot new and innovative ways to improve early years language and literacy. The BBC’s ambition – to halve the pre-school language gap – chimes with Greater Manchester’s drive to improve school readiness and work will continue to further trial the approach throughout the year.

Lucy Powell, Greater Manchester Political Lead for School Readiness said: “We have a big ambition to be the place in the UK where transforming life chances happens in the early years, working with councils, schools, early years providers, health services and others, to eradicate the inequalities children and families face. We’ve begun to break the cycle of disadvantage but must redouble our efforts to close the gap particularly for the half of children in Greater Manchester from the poorest households, who do not arrive at school with the confidence and skills to learn.”

Jon Rouse CBE, chief officer for Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said:  “It is vital that children are ready to make the most of school as soon as they begin and lay the foundations for lifelong development. Children who fall behind at this early stage face an uphill battle to catch up with their peers and many will struggle to do so.

“We have seen improvements here in Greater Manchester in the last year and should be proud of what’s already been achieved. However, more needs to be done.

“This is isn’t something than any organisation can do alone -  and educators, local authorities, health and care organisations, and the voluntary sector must continue to work together if we are to see real change.

“Devolution has provided us with the opportunity to work together more closely and we must seize the opportunity to improve the way children and families are supported.”

The summit celebrated the successes since the inaugural summit in October 2017, showcasing some of the innovative work going on across Greater Manchester, including place-based, integrated working, a whole-system approach to early years delivery, and collaborating with world-leading universities, foundations and organisations including the BBC.

Attendees also explored new ways to continue improving school readiness and tackle educational inequality including investing in the early years workforce and skills, doing things differently with data and digital, and working more closely with the voluntary and community sector to achieve Greater Manchester’s school ready ambition.

Across Greater Manchester, 68% of children achieved a good level of development (GLD), compared to 71.5% nationally.

The 32% of GM children not achieving a GLD represents 11,800 children. This is a 2% improvement on last year’s figure of 12,000.

The assessment of school-readiness is made using the ‘good level of development’ indicator that assesses a child’s personal, social and emotional development, physical development, communication skills and language.

Article Published: 28/02/2019 17:47 PM