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More state intervention to help pre-school children

Hard to reach and vulnerable parents will get earlier interventions from nurses and education experts to ensure children are ready for school.

New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said in draft guidance that health visitors and nursery teachers should intervene earlier when families are struggling with young children.

Plans need to be in place to ensure under-fives learn to socialise with other children, take instructions from a teacher and can go to the toilet on their own, all as part of getting them ready for school life.

Teachers have suggested that some children are arriving for school completely unprepared for it – some still in nappies, some unable to use cutlery, and many without the social skills necessary to interact with other children.

The guidance says: “Health and early years professionals should be systematic and persistent in their efforts to encourage hard-to-reach vulnerable parents to use early years services. Activities should include: targeted publicity campaigns, using key workers and referral partners to make contact, sending out repeat invitations, knocking on doors, using local community venues such as places of worship and play centres, using home visits by family support workers.”

All children should get childcare on a full or part-time basis so parents can work, with help for transport costs provided if necessary, the guidance says.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE, said: “Most parents provide their children with the love and care they need to grow up into happy and successful adults, no matter what their personal circumstances may be, but we know that children living in difficult circumstances, for example with parents with mental health problems, and exposed to domestic abuse are more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural problems that can have a life-long, negative effect on their future health and wellbeing.

“This draft guidance responds to a real need to improve the level and quality of early education and childcare services, especially to make sure these services are readily available to those who need them most: vulnerable children and their parents.”

The guidance is open for consultation until June 15.

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