Many Scots children '˜start school with speech problems'

Many Scottish children are starting school with speech and language problems, a survey of Primary 1 teachers has indicated.

Primary teachers in Scotland say they often see children starting school struggling with their speech and language, causing them to fall behind other children
Primary teachers in Scotland say they often see children starting school struggling with their speech and language, causing them to fall behind other children

Almost half (46%) of teachers say that sway the issue is a concern with a widespread view among the profession that poverty lies behind the problem.

The concerns have emerged in a survey of 100 Scots Primary 1 teachers who deal with youngsters starting school for the first time. It was conducted by pollsters Comres on behalf of Save the Children.

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Over half of Scots teachers state that children are struggling to speak in full sentences as a result of poor language skills and Nearly half of teachers say that those children struggling with these issues find it hard to make friends and fall behind other children in their learning.

But the research also finds that 76% of teachers said speech and language skills is not a problem for most youngsters starting Primary 1.

Vicky Crichton, Save the Children’s Policy Manager in Scotland said: “Teachers tell us that speech and language delay among children in Primary One has an impact on both their experience of school and their future learning, putting them at an unfair disadvantage.”

The charity is calling for action to be taken so that by the end of this Parliament all children start school equipped to learn. They are calling for an increase in the numbers of qualified teachers and graduates with speech and language expertise working in Scotland’s nurseries, along with training for the wider workforce.

Save the Children’s previous research from their ‘Ready to Read’ report highlights that speech and language delay is ‘the single biggest issue’ affecting child development in Scotland.

Today’s research finds almost half (46%) of teachers say children in their class with speech and language delays struggle to understand simple instructions. Over half (59%) say children starting school with these problems are less likely to enjoy school

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers know there is a link between educational attainment and deprivation and are bringing forward a Child Poverty Bill to tackle this.

“We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential.

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“The Attainment Scotland Fund will also see £750million of resources targeted at the children, schools and communities which most need them,” the spokeswoman added.

“We are also increasing funded early learning and childcare provision for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two year olds from 600 hours to 1,140 hours, which will transform the lives of children and their families,” she said.

“In addition, our PlayTalkRead campaign, encourages parents, grandparents and carers to play, talk and read with their children every day to give them the essential skills, motivation and abilities that will make it easier for them to keep learning throughout their lives.”

This year the Attainment Challenge programme will support more than 100,000 primary and secondary pupils living in the most deprived areas of Scotland and in 2017/18 that will be extended to reach children and young people in around 95% of all schools in Scotland.