£13.5 million schemes to help close disadvantaged children’s ‘word gap’

Two multi-million pound schemes have been announced to help boost early language and literacy development for disadvantaged children.

The projects, totalling £13.5 million, aim to “build the confidence of parents to support their children in language and reading at an early stage” in an effort to reduce the gap in communication skills between disadvantaged children and their peers when they start school, the government said today.

There is a “word-gap” between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers by the age of five, and evidence shows it “has a long term effect on educational outcomes”, the Department for Education said.

A £5 million programme run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) will trial projects in the north of England to provide “practical tools and advice” to parents so they can help their children learn new words.

Sir Kevan Collins, the chief executive of the EEF, said it can “sometimes be difficult” to get parents involved in their child’s learning, and “we know little about how to do this well”.

“By testing different ways of tackling issues like the early-years ‘word gap’, this new fund will give us much needed information about how we can give parents the tools they need to give their child the very best start in life.”

Another £8.5 million has been committed to the Local Government Association (LGA) for a new early-years social mobility peer review programme, which will help fund councils to work together to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children.

Roy Perry, vice chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the association was “very pleased” to receive the funding, which will help to “share and promote good practice and knowledge across councils”.

“Councils are absolutely determined to make sure that children get the best start in life,” he added. “This is why we need to close the word gap in the early years, by focusing on key early language and literacy skills, so that all children can begin school ready to thrive.”

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said the new support “will help parents with early language learning at home by giving them practical advice on activities like reading and learning the alphabet which are so important in making no child is left behind”.

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