Children playing outsideOne in four children lacks the basic skills to flourish when they start primary school, a new report by the charity Early Intervention Foundation has found.

The study found that 25 per cent of children, especially those from poor backgrounds and deprived communities, start primary school in England without the necessary language and communication skills. Additionally, a fifth of children currently lack personal, social and emotional development by the age of four.

This equates to approximately 40,000 girls and 82,000 boys. The research, which was based on analysis of 2014 Early Year Foundation Stage Profile (EYFS) figures, found that four-year-olds from the poorest 30 per cent of neighbourhoods are 11 percentage points less likely than their peers to reach expected levels in communication
and language and 9 percentage points less likely to reach the expected level in personal, social and emotional
development.

The EYFS data also showed that 45 per cent of primary school pupils eligible for free school meals achieved a
‘good level of development’ compared with 64 per cent of other pupils – a 19 percentage point gap.

As a result of the findings, the EIF is calling for greater support of the most vulnerable in deprived areas with a focus on the poorest 20 per cent of families in
their neighbourhoods by health visitors, midwives and early years professionals to support parenting and the development of strong parent-child relationships.

The EIF would also like to see greater access to ante-natal and post-natal support around the birth of the child to help parents understand the importance of fostering a strong communicative relationship with their child.

EIF Chief Executive Carey Oppenheim said: "Too many children arrive for their first day at primary school lacking the broad range of skills they need to reach their full potential.

"This can have damaging consequences which can last a lifetime. Especially as children with strong social, emotional and communication skills developed in childhood have a better chance of getting a good job and being healthy, than those who are just bright or clever. The gap in the development social and emotional skills between children growing up in poor and rich families begins at the age of three. Seeking help as a parent must
not be seen as a sign of failure."