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Primary school teachers in Northern Ireland have raised concerns about the number of children who are starting their education with a poor level of speech and language skills.
A recent report from the charity Save the Children reveals that as many as 40 per cent of children entering primary school for the first time in the country experience difficulties with their speech, language and communication abilities. As a result, 90 per cent of teachers believe this makes them more likely to fall behind with their education, BBC News reports.
These figures highlight the importance of early intervention from speech and language therapists to help prevent these communication problems from worsening, as Save the Children research shows that children who struggle with their speech as toddlers may never catch up with their counterparts.
Further emphasising how essential speech therapist intervention can be in early life are statistics showing that 89 per cent of teachers report that children with communication problems struggle to concentrate, and that 70 per cent find these pupils unable to understand basic instructions.
What's more, two-thirds of teachers said children with delayed progress in their speech and language skills were less likely to enjoy school, meaning they may be even more likely to fall behind.
Overall, children from poorer or more disadvantaged backgrounds were at the greatest risk of suffering with speech and language problems, highlighting that families from these demographics are particularly in need of additional help from speech therapists.
Peter Bryson, head of Save the Children's Northern Ireland division, commented: "The executive has acknowledge the role that early years provision could make in reducing the educational achievement gap, and it's encouraging to see this is part of the government's agenda.
"Teachers are telling us that when children start primary one with speech and language delays, we know from our work that this does have an impact on a child's future, putting them at an unfair disadvantage."
Written by Martin Lambert
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