One in six Doncaster two-year-olds lack key skills of early childhood

One in six children in Doncaster lack the key skills of early childhood at age two, new figures show.

By Kate Mason
Monday, 29 July, 2019, 15:37
Toddler reading

A leading children's charity has warned about the impact of poverty on child development, after new statistics revealed significant differences in crucial early years abilities across England.

Public Health England data found that 18% of the 748 youngsters tested in the area did not meet expectations in five areas: communication, problem solving, social interaction, fine motor skills (holding objects and drawing) and gross motor skills such as running and walking.

This was down from 18% over the same period last year.

Every three months, experts examine thousands of children aged between two and two-and-a-half years old in England to check their mental and physical development.

The latest statistics, which cover January to March 2019, looked at more than 100,000 youngsters from 126 council areas.

According to the results, those tested in Doncaster lagged behind their peers across Yorkshire and The Humber, where 12% had not reached the expected level of development in all five areas.

Across all the local authorities which provided data, this figure is 17%.

Nearly two-thirds of children tested in the London borough of Ealing failed to reach the five development targets – the highest share in the country.

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Gateshead, in the North East, had the lowest, with only 4% of youngsters not meeting expectations.

Action for Children says factors such as poverty, poor housing and low-paid work can prevent parents from providing safe and nurturing environments during the early years of a child's life.

The charity's head of policy and research, Eleanor Briggs, said: "All children deserve the best start in life and these figures show that for too many this simply isn't the case.

"We know there are big differences in regions across the country when it comes to children's development in the early years, with low income families and the more deprived councils coming off worst.

"Young children living in poverty are more at risk than others, with low income families more likely to have issues such as low breastfeeding rates and obesity in pregnancy, which affect a child's health."

She welcomed steps from the Government to fund pilot projects to improve home environments but maintained such schemes will have little impact while early years services like children's centres continue to face funding cuts.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We are working with Public Health England and the NHS to modernise the Healthy Child programme which already ensures children and families receive five mandatory health visitor checks by the time they are two and a half.

"The recently published green paper on prevention will also seek views on how to help families keep healthy and well."