Poverty means some Blackpool children 'still in nappies' when they start school

Ensuring children are ready for school is one of the challenges for health chiefs who warned some Blackpool infants are still in nappies when they start formal education.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 12:13 pm

Blackpool Council's director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura told a meeting of the town's Health and Wellbeing Board emphasis was being placed on the first 1,000 days of life to improve children's chances of achievement.

This includes increasing the number of health visits for families to eight from the national minimum standard of five.

Dr Rajpura, who was presenting his 2018 annual health report to the board, said: "One of the key outcomes we are trying to achieve for our kids is school readiness.

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Pupil development is a concern

"A lot of our children are arriving at school not ready to learn. Speech and language is not developed, some are still in nappies and they are not emotionally in the right place."

Neglect, domestic abuse and substance use by parents were given as reasons why children's development was falling behind, while deprivation was also a factor.

Tracy Hopkins, chief executive of Blackpool's Citizens Advice Bureau, told the meeting: "A lot of the families we come across are making decisions about feeding their families and heating their homes so it's difficult to think about all these things that make a child ready for school."

She said it was important to break the poverty cycle if children were to reach their potential, and added: "I think Blackpool sees that cycle of poverty more than other towns."

Figures from the annual health report show in 2017/2018 nearly 68 per cent of five year olds in Blackpool had achieved "a good level of development at the end of reception" compared to 71.5 per cent nationally.

But the figure for children eligible for free school meals, which is used as an indicator of deprivation, was just under 55 per cent.

The council's public health team is working with organisations including Better Start and the NHS on a 10-year programme to improve life chances for pre-school children in the resort.