John Swinney urged to focus on child speech development

Save the Children have urged John Swinney to tackle speech and language development in toddlers. Picture: Andrew Cowan

Save the Children have urged John Swinney to tackle speech and language development in toddlers. Picture: Andrew Cowan

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TODDLERS struggling with their first words is the biggest single issue affecting child development in Scotland and tackling it is critical to closing the attainment gap in schools, a charity has claimed.

Save the Children said at least 7,000 pre-school age children have problems with speech and language development - and babies from poorer families are twice as likely to have delays or difficulties as those from better-off homes.

The charity warns “poverty is damaging too many children’s education before they have even set foot in a classroom” as youngsters who struggle as toddlers may never catch up.

READ MORE: Scots schools system no longer world leading, says educationalist

Save the Children is calling for decisive action in the Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s education plan. The organisation wants three actions to be included in the plan - qualified teachers and graduates with speech and language expertise in every nursery in Scotland, training for all early-years workers in how to support language development and support for parents to help encourage their child’s speaking skills.

READ MORE: Niall Kelly: Support all children to close the gap

The charity’s researchers found children who struggle with speech and language in their early years are often still behind their peers in key literacy skills at age 11 and that one in five children growing up in poverty leaves primary school not reading well.

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