Disadvantaged children less ready for school

Disadvantaged children are more likely to arrive at school lacking basic socio-emotional skills.

The importance of early child health and development for later life health and social outcomes is widely accepted. The three chief domains of early child development are physical, socio emotional and cognitive domains, and favourable profiles in these strongly predict whether or not young children are ‘school ready’.

Recent work from the ESRC Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health shows that disadvantaged children are more likely to arrive at school lacking basic socio-emotional skills such as the ability to take part in conversations or to pay attention to others1. Children from poor households are also less likely to benefit from home learning activities or have a quiet space in which to study, and more likely to suffer frequent illnesses due to inadequate housing.

Children living in poverty, or with a lack of material resources, have substantially lower scores in measures of their cognitive ability at ages three, five and seven years, although the exact causal mechanisms that lead from child poverty to lower cognitive attainment are still uncertain2. This suggests a possible link between poverty and social (im)mobility in that children living in poverty achieve less at school, which in turn leads them to gain low levels of qualifications. Lower qualifications mean fewer opportunities in the labour market which can typically lead to employment in lower paid semi-skilled or unskilled occupations.

Attitudes and behaviour matter to educational attainment