The debate will take place in Westminster Hall at 9.30am on Tuesday 12 July – it is
open to the public and will be live streamed on
James Berry writes:
We sometimes think of education as starting only at primary school or once children have
reached their fourth or fifth birthdays, but this is far from the case. Even the very youngestchildren are learning all the time and a growing body of research shows that this earlylearning is vitally important.
Early education and childcare have been longstanding priorities of mine because of theimportant role they play in children’s life chances.Unless children start school with the building blocks of learning, particularly early languagedevelopment, they may struggle to pay attention in the classroom, follow lessons, interactwith their classmates and develop key skills like reading and maths. The research shows thatchildren who start behind, stay behind.Roughly nine in every ten three and four year olds currently attend some sort of childcareeach week and I am proud that the government has passed legislation to double the amount offree child care working parents can claim from 15 to 30 hours each week. Indeed this was apolicy launched right in the heart of my constituency at the Advantage Children’s Day CareNursery in Tolworth.But whilst an additional 15 hours free childcare will be an enormous help to parents inKingston and across the country, we must use this opportunity to look at what actually goesinto this childcare. We need to make sure that early years education really does get ourchildren ready to have the best possible start at school and prevents any child from fallingbehind.Compared to the national average, children in the Kingston borough perform well in speechand language development at age five, thanks in part to the excellent teaching and SLTservices here. However, the poorest children are almost twice as likely to fall behind and arealready around a year behind their better-off peers by the time they reach this age.The implications for a child who fails to master basic language skills are clear. It is littlesurprise that those children who start behind tend to stay behind, leading to limited chancesof success throughout their lives at school and fewer opportunities beyond.
I want to ensure that all children in Kingston have the chance to fulfil their full potential,whatever their parents’ circumstances. That is why I have called a debate in WestminsterHall, together with a cross-party group of MPs, to look at what we can do to make these
objectives a reality.