CHILDREN growing up in poverty have fallen almost a year behind their more affluent peers by the time they start primary school, councillors will be told tomorrow.
An emergency city council report on poverty reveals that by the age of five, youngsters from poorer backgrounds can be ten months behind their classmates when it comes to problem- solving and vocabulary skills.
It comes after the News revealed last week that one in five children in the Capital was living in poverty – with that figure expected to increase “significantly” by 2020.
The crisis is so dire that poor children have often fallen behind by the age of just 22 months.
Councillors will discuss the findings of the report at City Chambers tomorrow and have vowed to take action to reverse the slide.
Dr Morag Treanor, an expert in child poverty from Edinburgh University, said that disadvantages faced by children in poverty could begin in the womb – with a pregnant woman’s diet playing a key role in her child’s development.
On average, even a “poor but high-performing child” would eventually be overtaken by a “low-performing but wealthy” child, she said.
“If a child was poor but high-performing they would have a downwards trajectory over time,” said Dr Treanor.
“And if they were low-performing but wealthy, they would have an upwards trajectory over time until, at some point, they crossed.”
Dr Treanor also insisted that a child’s development was determined more by environment – including parents’ income and education level – than genes.
She called for better housing, higher wages and improved access to training and education for parents and children.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education, children and families leader, said the council understood the importance of early intervention.
“I think there is a clear recognition and focus on early years and this is one of the main planks to tackle this wider issue,” he added. “This is a huge challenge but we are absolutely committed to the development of early-years services – such as nursery provision – and there is a growing need for us to provide that support.”
Alison Noble, headteacher at Sciennes Primary School, is backing a council campaign to raise awareness of child poverty in Edinburgh.
She said: “This project provides a valuable opportunity for Sciennes to make a difference and ensure the outcomes for our children are not undermined by poverty and inequality.
“Our ward includes an area of multiple deprivation so raising awareness of the issues surrounding poverty may contribute to our children making a positive contribution to the school, local and wider community.”
The report has exposed shocking levels of deprivation across the city, with around 15,000 children living in poverty.
Every council ward in the city has poverty rates of more than ten per cent, with the cost of services to deal with the problem estimated at £156 million a year.
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