Kids aren’t washing & can’t converse... but they can unlock an iPhone, says report

Hundreds of thousands of children starting school are lacking basic personal hygiene, communication and social skills, but can probably unlock an iPhone, new research says.

The State of Education report by school leaders service The Key surveyed more than 1,100 senior primary school staff on pupils’ readiness to start school.

Those surveyed said many children suffer from a lack of social skills, which included delayed speech or deficient self-help skills, such as taking themselves to the toilet.

Some teachers also said many pupils had levels of reading, writing and numeracy much lower than they should be.

One headteacher said four-year-olds “know how to swipe a phone but haven’t a clue about conversations.”

“Why, in the 21st century, are children still arriving in school nurseries aged three or above, without being toilet trained?” another school leader lamented.

The report says while it’s common across the country for more than half of new pupil intakes to be below the level expected – affecting at least 20 percent of the schools in each region – it is most widespread in the northern regions.

The North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside have the highest proportion of schools, between 34 and 39 percent, where more than half of pupils join below the level of readiness school leaders expect.

London, however, is close behind, with 32 percent of schools reporting new intakes where more than half of pupils aren’t school-ready.

The report says children suffering a lack of attention and interaction could be blamed on their parents’ obsession with smartphones.

St Paul’s Church of England head teacher Andrew Teale said more help needed to be provided to parents on what “school ready” means.

“We live in a very different world from the one we grew up in, where screen time is increasingly replacing social interaction as a way of spending time.

“Resistance is futile on this one, so we have to find ways to use technology healthily to promote language development and interaction skills. We also need to help parents understand just how valuable and enhancing real-life interactions are.”

Speaking about the findings, The Key chief executive Fergal Roche says school leaders are already struggling to retain staff and manage their teachers’ workload.

“Add thousands more pupils arriving ill-prepared for the classroom to the equation, and the burden placed on our schools will be huge.”

Roche says an agreed definition of what “school readiness” means could be the first step to helping schools and parents.