Scottish Election 2021: Tories pledge to tackle poverty 'word gap'

The Scottish Conservatives have said they would spend £1m on tackling the “word gap” between children from Scotland’s poorest and wealthiest areas, after research showed early language support was vital in nurseries.

Douglas Ross, his wife Krystle and their son Alistair.
Douglas Ross, his wife Krystle and their son Alistair.

The party has also pledged a further £2m to help children transition from nursery to primary school as part of its ‘Plan for Parents’, which would revamp and expand childcare options.

Under the plan, parents would be able to access wraparound childcare for pupils in the first three years of primary, up to 195 hours each year, while a new campaign to encourage families with eligible two-year-olds to take up their funded childcare place would be launched, as around half currently do not.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he would target resources at children in disadvantaged areas “to help stop the attainment gap developing before they get to school.”

A focus would be on reducing the “word gap” which refers to when children have a vocabulary below age-related expectations.

Studies have shown that children with larger vocabularies achieve more academically, however children who receive free school meals and live in disadvantaged areas are 2.3 times more likely to have a speech, language or communication issue.

Mr Ross said that investment in childcare was vital to tackle the problem and support working parents.

“My wife Krystle works as a police officer and we know only too well how difficult it can be to juggle work and family commitments,” he said. “Our plan for parents would give young families far more flexibility and support.

“By improving access to childcare, we would help parents to continue working and stop so many having to put their careers fully on hold to raise their kids.

“The SNP’s bold promises on childcare have not materialised. They’ve let working families down by not delivering enough flexibility and choice over the last 14 years."

The party said it would launch a campaign to ensure families with eligible two-year-olds take up their funded childcare place, working with health visitors to provide information and outreach for families.

It would also “deliver the 1,140 hours of funded childcare promised to all three and four-years-olds with no more delay” and “accelerate plans to ensure all families who chose to defer their child starting primary school receive an additional year of funded childcare.”

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