early years education

Education Secretary sets his vision to support a child’s early years education, in his first major speech on social mobility

Latest research shows more than 28% of four-and-five-year-olds lacked the early communication and literacy skills expected by the end of reception year. The ‘expected level’ includes, for example, a child being able to express themselves clearly and read simple sentences.

In a speech to the Resolution Foundation, Education Secretary Damian Hinds set out his ambition to halve this number through a range of measures and a new coalition of organisations to look at ways of supporting parents with helping children develop communication skills.

He also unveiled details of a £30 million fund, part of an investment announced in the government’s social mobility action plan, to create more nursery places run by successful schools in disadvantaged areas so more children can access a high-quality early education.

Alongside this, another £20 million will be spent on training and professional development for early years staff in disadvantaged areas to increase their ability to support children’s early speech and language development.

On top of the new ambition and investment in early years provision, the Education Secretary announced other measures to improve social mobility:

  • the Office for Students will look at how universities – particularly the most elite – can reach out to children from different backgrounds;
  • a new data project building on Raj Chetty’s world-renowned work mapping social mobility in America, linking education and income data and breaking it down by region to directly show the impact of education on future earning prospects. The data will provide a map and measure of social mobility and help target interventions more effectively;
  • a departmental review of non-GCSE qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds to make sure the courses on offer to students are of high quality; and
  • new research by the Social Mobility Commission looking at the impact of extra-curricular activities on social mobility. This will help ensure the most effective practices are scaled up and targeted at the areas that need them most.

In his speech, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “We need a country that works for everyone – because what is progress for our society if we’re not doing more for the people who start out with the biggest disadvantages? A strong society, a strong economy, does not leave people behind.

“It’s time to raise our ambitions, to expect more and to expect better for every child, whatever their background – and to build a country where everyone can make the most of themselves.”

During the speech, Mr Hinds set out his ‘Seven Key Truths’ that drive better outcomes for children by giving them the support, skills and character building experiences that will unlock their potential.

These include:

  • the early learning from birth to age three;
  • a good school education;
  • high-quality teaching;
  • making more extracurricular activities available;
  • increasing access for university;
  • second chances later in life; and
  • developing resilience and emotional wellbeing.


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