Findings from Kindred2 “annual school readiness survey” were published today and report that more children in England and Wales are starting school without the basic skills needed to learn, leaving them disadvantaged from the start. The findings from this important survey provide a stark warning to policymakers, educationalists and practitioners working to give every child the best start in life, including health visitors.

To understand “school readiness” for children starting Reception last autumn, the early years charitable foundation Kindred2 commissioned Savanta to conduct focus groups and survey over 1,000 teachers and 1,000 parents of Reception children:

  • More than three-quarters of teachers say they are spending more time supporting children who are not school ready.
  • 1 in 4 children are starting school not toilet trained.
  • 30% of children can’t communicate their needs to tell teachers if they are hungry or scared or need to go to the toilet. More than a third couldn’t dress themselves.
  • A quarter don’t have basic language skills.

According to the survey, nearly half (46%) of pupils are unable to sit still, 38% struggle to play or share with others, more than a third (37%) cannot dress themselves, 29% cannot eat or drink independently, and more than a quarter (28%) are using books incorrectly, swiping or tapping as though they were using a tablet.

Half of teachers say the problem is worse than last year and every child loses out as an estimated 2.5 hours of teacher time is lost each day; and 9 in 10 teachers say this impacts the rest of the class.

Schools say pressures are also affecting staff retention: almost half (47%) of the teachers in the survey said they are considering leaving their current role, and nearly a quarter (23%) plan on doing so in the next year.

49% of parents think that some children start school not ready because parents are unaware of the expectations of school readiness. The report also highlighted that “early help” was patchy with wide variation in the level of support that families received from a health visitor. More than one in five (22%) of parents had received no visits from a health visitor before their child started school, and the majority (63%) had two visits or fewer. 69% of school staff think parents need more guidance about child development milestones.

The full report includes comments from focus groups held with teachers and parents:

“Over the last 20 years… we’ve noticed a change in the children – the children at entry points from when they come into Reception are not as school ready as they were when I first started.” – Teacher

Felicity Gillespie, Director at Kindred², said:

“The shocking findings in this year’s report should be a watershed moment for schools and parents because we know that children who are behind before they begin Reception are more likely to struggle throughout life. The 40% attainment gap we see at GCSE is already evident at age 5… we need to question why the critically important first key stage of our education system doesn’t start until age five – when we know that we all start learning from birth.”

Alison Morton, iHV CEO, said:

“Health visitors have a vital role to play in ensuring that all children are supported to be ready for school. When adequately resourced, they are in a privileged position as the only service that proactively and systematically reaches all families with babies and young children – we need to maximise these important opportunities to prevent and identify problems early to ensure that all children get the support that they need to be ready to learn when they start school. However, following years of cuts to the health visiting service, too many families are not receiving this vital support. Cuts have consequences and sadly children are the innocent victims. We urgently need more health visitors.”


Today, the Government published the second set of four reports in a series looking at the pandemic’s continued impact on education recovery and how schools, prisons, early years providers and further education and skills providers are responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TheEducation recovery in early years providers: spring 2022 report draws on inspection evidence gathered in the spring 2022 term and discussions with early years inspectors about the ongoing implications of the pandemic on children.

The pandemic has continued to affect young children’s communication and language development, with many providers noticing delays in speech and language. Others said babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions, which may be due to reduced social interaction during the pandemic.

The negative impact on children’s personal, social and emotional development has also continued, with many lacking confidence in group activities.

Children’s social and friendship-building skills have been affected. Some providers reported that toddlers and pre-schoolers needed more support with sharing and turn-taking. To address this, staff were providing as many opportunities as possible for children to mix with others and build confidence in social situations.

There continues to be an impact on children’s physical development, including delays in babies learning to crawl and walk. Some providers reported that children had regressed in their independence and self-care skills. As a result, several have increased the amount of time that children spend on physical activities, to develop gross motor skills.

An increasing number of providers were concerned that, compared with before the pandemic, fewer children have learned to use the toilet independently. This means that more children may not be ready for school by age 4. Providers were also concerned about obesity and dental health, so have focused on providing well-balanced meals and increased time for physical activity.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director said:

“Today’s report lays bare the far-reaching and largely overlooked impacts of the pandemic on babies, young children and their families. It is vital that this is taken seriously by policy makers with a COVID recovery plan and investment to address growing levels of need and vulnerability.

“We have a longstanding problem in this country with invisible vulnerable children who are not getting the support that they need, and the pandemic has made this situation worse. Therefore, it is vital that any enhanced package of support for ‘Covid recovery’ also includes investment in the universal safety net for our youngest citizens provided by the health visiting service.

“Babies, young children and families need joined up support – to achieve this we need more health visitors who are uniquely placed to reach all families, ideally preventing problems happening in the first place, but also who have a crucial role in identifying babies and young children with developmental delay and unrecognised disabilities that need early intervention and targeted support to achieve their full potential. I hope that this report will provide further impetus for much needed investment to turn the Best Start for Life Vision into a reality.”

Find details of the series of Ofsted reports here: