Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

One in 10 five-year-olds are 'nursery Neets'

child playing
Helping children fit in at school at an early age is key, says the study

More than one in 10 five-year-olds are already at risk of disengaging from education when they start school, according to a think tank report.

A study of 15,000 young children by Demos found 11.5% begin school without the behavioural skills they need to learn or to build friendships.

The study comes ahead of figures out later on young people not in education, employment or training - Neets.

Early intervention at the nursery stage is needed, the report argues.

Author Sonia Sodha said: "One in 10 children lacks the tools to benefit from education before they even get to the school gate."

"These nursery Neets show the same behaviour problems as older Neets, like difficulty making friends and bad behaviour."

The report says that only by helping children at an early age can they be prevented from later becoming unemployed and out of education.

It calls for more money for Sure Start centres and nurseries serving children from deprived areas and the trialling of financial incentives for at-risk parents to complete parenting courses.

Shaks Gosh, chief executive of the Private Equity Foundation which supported the study, said: "Early intervention is not about branding children before they have even started school - it is about dealing with any emotional issues, family problems, literacy and numeracy before it's too late."


Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government had been working on improving children's chances in life by focussing on their early needs and education.

"This research confirms what we already knew in this very important area and have already taken action to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life," she said.

"Since we introduced the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2008, overall achievement has reached its highest levels since records began and crucially improving the levels of attainment of the most deprived five year olds.

"And we are on course to deliver access to a Sure Start Children's Centre for every community, and working hard to ensure parents are aware of the services they offer, and the tremendous benefits early help can make in a child's life chances.

"The gap between rich and poor in early years continues to close, with the lowest-achieving children not only keeping pace but improving faster than the rest. We will continue to focus extra resources on the most disadvantaged youngsters."

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