Three in five UK parents worry their children are not ready to start school

Nearly three out of five (59%) parents are worried their child will not be ready to start school at the age of five, according to a poll from Action for Children.

The survey of over 1000 parents also found that of these worried parents 63% were concerned that if their child started school behind their peers, they would remain behind – which can seriously impact their ability to do well in education and find a good job in later life.

Being ready for school means reaching a good level of development in a number of areas that enable children to cope emotionally, communicate with teachers and be confident interacting with other children.

Kate Mulley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Starting school is a huge milestone in a child’s life. It is not surprising that 75% of parents told us that the Government should make sure all children reach a good level of development by age five. We are calling on the Government to measure this as part of their Life Chances Strategy, as we know that once a child starts school behind their peers they will face an uphill challenge to catch up.

“Parents play the most important role in helping their child develop during their earliest years but they shouldn’t need to do this alone or feel that asking for help is a reflection on their parenting. Our research shows that parents want affordable, non-judgemental support from a trusted source to ensure their child has the best start in life. The Government have said that they recognise the importance of supporting parents, so they must listen to them about what will help.”

Shanika Hall, 24 originally from Sheffield, is a mother of a two and a half year-old daughter, who became isolated after graduating from university. With little support and struggling with her confidence she started to attend Action for Children’s Stay and Play sessions in Birmingham in 2014.

She said: “I was really anxious because I didn’t feel confident that I was developing my daughter in the right way, but after attending the Stay and Play sessions my confidence grew – which helped my daughter develop.

“In six months she went from a shy girl who wanted to stick with mummy to a girl who couldn’t wait to play, sing and interact with all the friends she had made. Parents like me need more services to be available – if it wasn’t for Action for Children, my daughter starting school would have been a struggle for both of us.

“Having the opportunity to make sure I’m giving my child the building blocks to get her ready for school means that she can thrive well into the future.”

Action for Children has a wide range of services that can make a difference to children through supporting parents, like Shanika. We provide services that any parents can use, such as drop in Stay and Play where children can play with toys and one another. We also offer more intensive evidence based programmes such as Triple P and Incredible Years that give parents the chance to develop skills such as setting boundaries and good routines.

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For further information, photos or interviews please contact Anna Tsirmpa at the Action for Children press office on [email protected] or call 020 3124 0662 / 07725 601441 (Out of Hours: 07802 806 679)


About Action for Children

For more than 145 years, Action for Children has never been afraid to push for the best for children. We work in local communities across the UK to make children’s lives better: now, tomorrow and every day. We take action at the earliest opportunity to help children as they grow up. We care about each child and every family. We support and protect the most vulnerable. We never give up. Today, close to 650 services directly help more than 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers across the UK each year.

For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @actnforchildren