Pupils are ‘not toilet trained’ when they start school in Sunderland

Gordons LLP''Photograph by Richard Walker/ImageNorth''www.imagenorth.net
Gordons LLP''Photograph by Richard Walker/ImageNorth''www.imagenorth.net
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LESS than a third of disadvantaged youngsters can go to the toilet themselves when they start school, figures have revealed.

Of the children eligible for free school meals at the age of five, just 31 per cent in Sunderland are “school ready”.

The figure was 30 per cent in South Tyneside and also in Hartlepool. The figure for County Durham is even lower at 24 per cent. The national average is 33 per cent.

Alan Milburn, head of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said the figures, which are part of the State of the Nation report 2014, are “lamentable and shocking”.

He said the burden of teaching children the basic skills, such as using the toilet and putting on their coats, is unfairly falling on teachers.

The figures also show that about half of children nationally who are not eligible for free school meals are classed as school ready at age five, including 57 per cent in Sunderland, 52 per cent in Hartlepool, 53 per cent in South Tyneside and 42 per cent in County Durham.

Now Mr Milburn, a Government adviser, has urged “timid” ministers to get tough by introducing parenting classes, with the aim of making 85 per cent of children school ready by 2020, and all of them by 2025.

He said: “Too many kids, by the age of five, are not ready to start school – they can’t say no, or use the toilet, or get their coat on, for example.

“Most parents do a great job, but some do not, and there has been a reluctance to call out bad parenting or to support more parents to develop their parenting skills.”

Mr Milburn has also raised the alarm over the attainment gap between poor pupils at GCSE.

Nationally, just 38.1 per cent of pupils receiving free school meals achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared to 64.8 per cent of other youngsters.

In Sunderland, 32.6 per cent of poor youngsters clinched the top grades, compared to 67.1 per cent of others.

In South Tyneside the figures were 39 per cent compared to 64 per cent, Hartlepool, 35.3 per cent compared to 65.4 per cent and in County Durham, 38 per cent compared to 68.2 per cent.

Overall, the former North East MP and Cabinet minister delivered a stinging rebuke to all parties for leaving Britain “on the brink of becoming a nation permanently divided between rich and poor”.

He is making a number of recommendations to address the problems, including a 25 per cent pay rise for teachers willing to work in the worst schools in deprived areas, to help end illiteracy and innumeracy, implementing a living wage by 2025, ending youth unemployment by 2020 and 5,000 more pupils from a free school meals background going to university.