Thousands of children could start school without knowing how to hold pencil
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
Thousands of children in Norfolk could start school this month without knowing basic skills such as how to hold a pencil or go to the toilet by themselves.
Public Health England measures a child's school readiness according to whether they have reached a good level of development at the end of reception.
But figures show just 70pc of children in Norfolk were at a good level in the 2016-17 academic year.
It means around 2,900 children - more than one in four - may not have been ready for school by the time they entered year one.
Children about to start school aged five are assessed on their school readiness based on communication and language, physical and emotional development.
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These cover skills such as being able to go to the toilet unaided and perform basic physical tasks such as holding a pencil or kicking a ball. Literacy and maths are also assessed.
A child has to be at a good level in every individual area to be assessed as being at a good level overall.
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Children who do not reach a good level by age five are likely to struggle to catch up in their later education, according to Ofsted.
Boys were far less likely to have reached a good level than girls. In Norfolk, 37pc of boys fell short compared to 23pc of girls.
Pupils from poorer backgrounds also fared worse, with just 54pc of those on free school meals in Norfolk achieving the benchmark.
A 2014 Ofsted report on school readiness said that a lack of 'good parenting' as well as high quality early education providers can impact on a child's early experiences.
At the time of the report, only half the children in England were at a good level of development at the end of reception.
By 2016/17, the number had risen to 71pc.
However, the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) said the measure was 'hugely contentious', and that there was no national consensus on the definition of school readiness.
Michael Freeston, PLA's director of quality improvement, said: 'There's an issue with standardisation because it is assessed individually by schools and local authorities.
'That's not to say certain local authorities don't do early years learning better than others, but it's in a school's interests to mark children down when they begin so they look better when they improve.'