BBC Onepolitics show


Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Early years learning

Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Editor, Politics Show South

The first few years of a child's life are among the most crucial, but there is growing evidence that many children are simply not picking up the abilities they need.

Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory.

Video: Baby bonding

The Jesuits have a famous maxim: "Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards." (Lenin later went one better and reckoned if he had the child for eight years, they would be a Bolshevik forever).

What both quotes show is just how influential those early years can be on the whole of one's later life.

Yet according to several recent studies, many youngsters are simply not picking up those early years skills.

Verbal non skills

Lady using a megaphone

The charity I Can is particularly concerned about lack of communication abilities.

They reckon that as many as a half of all the children joining primary school are without the speech and language skills that they need to make friends and prosper.

One in 10 children, they reckon, or 1.2 million, has what is known as a Speech Language and Communication Need (SLCN).

We are not just talking here about being a bit tongue-tied or lacking the social graces.

Without being able to communicate their feelings children become frustrated and isolated, and that leads on to other emotional and behavioural problems.

Baby bonding

Two babies
Never too young to bond

OxPip is a charity that helps parents bond with their babies. They also offer one-to-one counselling and advice.

The baby massage is proving the most popular though. Which might sound a little exotic, but according to Liz Danowski, OxPip's Executive Director, it is a good investment for the future.

She says: "If we want happier, healthier more well adjusted adults 20 years from now, I'd say this is the place to spend the money now."

The government has made a big effort to offer help to children in deprived areas.

There are SureStart centres all over the South that try to give them a better start in life.

But sometimes the very people who would benefit the most from SureStart are not taking it up, maybe because the centres can be a little overwhelming or the rather regimented services just do not appeal.

Hence Room to Play, another Oxford charity which helps often vulnerable parents struggling to get on with their children, offer advice and support on anything and everything to do with being a parent.

Under-five achievers

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the government has many targets for young learners.

Their under-five curriculum takes children from birth through to primary school, and certainly includes many of the bonding and communication skills that OxPip and Room to Play concentrate on.

Even so, some of the standards can seem a little tough.

According to the under-fives curriculum, for a five-year-old to exceed the early learning goals, one of the things they will be expected to be able to do is "Use mathematical language to describe solid 3D objects and flat 2D shapes".

I am not entirely sure that I could do that.

So are we in danger of giving our youngest generation so many targets to meet that having a childhood goes out the window?

How can we balance up working lives with parental bonding and quality time with the kids?

Are these the sort of skills that are best passed on by "untrained" parents or professional educators?

Why not send us an email and join the debate?

And join Peter Henley live on Sunday 8 February 2009 from 1200 GMT on BBC One.

Send us your views on the form below...

Send us your comments:

Your E-mail address:

Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

Watch the programme again on BBC iPlayer


Politics from around the UK...

The Politics Show South

Beatrice, Banbury

Previous stories...

South... meet the team...
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific