Express & Star

Improvements made in making sure children in Walsall are ready for school

Improvements have been made in ensuring children in Walsall are ready for school and at the right level of development at the age of five.

Walsall Town Hall

Members of the education overview and scrutiny committee heard how the number of youngsters equipped with the expected level of skills when they enter education at Key Stage 1 had increased since Covid.

Children are assessed on areas such as literacy and numeracy along with their physical development as well as skills such as how they interact socially and their ability to use the toilet.

A report showed that 64 per cent of Walsall kids had a good level of development in 2023, an increase of five per cent compared with 2022.

This put Walsall above the regional level of 63 per cent but less than the national figure of 67 per cent.

The issue of school readiness in Walsall hit the headlines back in 2019 when it emerged an infant school in the borough had hired a dedicated nappy changer as children were not trained to use the toilet.

Officers told committee members they were working with partners, including healthcare visitors, to ensure youngsters are equipped with the necessary skills before they start school.

Councillor Emma Morgan, who has around 30 years experience as a Key Stage 1 and Early Years teacher, said: “Everything here is positive for the children and their families.

“It talks a lot about their good level of development and focusing on their literacy and communication which I can say totally there has been an issue with young children coming into early years settlements being not ready and not able to communicate.

“I’m glad to see you picking up on social skills too as we’ve had children looking as if they are on the autistic spectrum when they’re not and they are just lacking in those social skills.”

Councillor Mark Statham, portfolio holder for education and skills, said: “For children in Key Stage 1 now they’ve grown up with being locked down and not having that interaction where we all pick up social skills.

“These are fundamental not just in our early years but throughout our lives so I do take the point the focus is on social skills as well – it is absolutely fundamental.”

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