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Government launches fund for early language skills

By Rachel Lawler

Early language support - child reading
The government has announced a total of £13.5 million in funding to help support early language and literacy skills.
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced the fund and explained that it would be used to support two schemes: a £5 million project run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) aiming to support parents through simple steps like reading and singing nursery rhymes; and a £8.5 million fund for local authority projects aimed at disadvantaged children.
Parental support
Both schemes will aim to build parents’ confidence in supporting their children with early language and reading in a bid to help close the ‘word gap’ between disadvantaged children and their peers when they start school. The government said that there is evidence to suggest that this gap can have a long-term effect on children's educational outcomes.
Hinds said: “This new support will help parents with early language learning at home by giving them practical advice on activities like reading and learning the alphabet, which are so important in making sure no child is left behind.”
The schemes are part of a wider drive to improve social mobility and were first announced in December as part of the Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential plan.
Alliance concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “Any money focused on getting disadvantaged children school-ready should be money well-spent. But the fact is that these parents should already have access to professional support of this kind in the form of children's centres. That some parents are unable to get this support is a result of years of indifference towards children centres that has led to a lack of inspections and hundreds of closures. This tiny amount of money won't change that. 
“If ministers were serious about closing the word gap they would be focussed on reaching as many children as possible through properly funded children’s centres and quality childcare practitioners, rather than offering piecemeal funding to a handful of parents. Until then announcements like this will be greeted with scepticism by a sector already feeling undervalued and worried about a future of rising costs and falling funds.”
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