Guernsey Press

‘Get off your devices’

EDUCATION president Andrea Dudley-Owen has told parents of preschool children to stop relying on hand-held devices to entertain their toddlers.

Education, Sport & Culture president Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32568684)

She said parents needed to use their mobile phones less and speak to their children more – and warned that taxpayers would otherwise pay the costs of poorer literacy standards in schools.

‘It sounds simple, but more children will start school with a mountain to climb, at expense to the taxpayer, if we cannot persuade parents and carers to put down their mobile phones, stop giving very small children hand-held devices to occupy them, and instead return to vocabulary rich, face-to-face communication with their little ones,’ said Deputy Dudley-Owen.

In the States yesterday, she revealed that about one in five children started primary school last year failing to meet age-related expectations for speaking.

‘We have to change this because every aspect of learning and academic achievement relies on good language skills,’ she said.

‘Research suggests that a child with poor language skills aged five is four times more likely to struggle with reading aged 11. The extent of a child’s vocabulary aged five is a strong predictor of results at GCSE and beyond.

‘Learning to talk is one of the most important skills children will develop. Starting school with excellent communication skills means children can make friends, share thoughts and ideas [and] understand what is being asked of them, helping them to be happier and more confident.’

Despite her concerns that too many children start primary school with poor standards of literacy, Deputy Dudley-Owen said that overall reading standards locally were better than in England.

‘Our new suite of performance indicators, to be published in full in our annual report in January, shows the focus on reading initiated by our predecessor committee, and continued in earnest on our watch, is working.

‘The proportion of our children with below average reading is less than in England and the proportion of children with above average reading skills is 11% higher.

‘I compare to England as it is currently the fourth-highest attaining country globally in this metric and the highest in the western world.. To obtain results for reading that are well above England is something that our schools and educationalists can be proud of.’

She said ESC has increased spending on staff and new initiatives to support children with poorer standards of literacy.

‘We remain determined to give the children whose reading is below average the right support to catch up with their peers.

‘We have invested to increase the number of literacy and language intervention teachers in primary schools and we are appointing a teacher to oversee and improve the already very successful work supporting weaker readers across the secondary school partnership.’

The new chief executive of children’s centre Bright Beginnings, Lisa Blondel, said that devices could help children educationally but agreed that communication with parents was vital.

‘I think it is important to know what children are doing on phones. I think children can learn a lot from certain educational apps on devices and I don’t think it’s at their detriment,’ she said.

‘I think it is the parents’ responsibility to maybe put their devices down and actually interact with their children as that is where their literacy rate will most likely develop.’