Press release

Two in every five London children are not school ready by age 5

PHE has published a new report showing how prepared London children are to succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally.


Public Health England (PHE) has today (10 August 2015) published a new report showing levels of ‘school readiness’ among London’s children, an indicator of how prepared a child is to succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally.

In 2013 to 2014, 2 in every 5 children in London did not achieve a ‘good level of development’ (GLD) by 5 years old – a measure used to assess school readiness – which is around 39,500 children.

Even though school readiness has improved across all boroughs in the capital since 2012 to 2013, there are still inequalities in London.

School readiness at age 5 has a strong impact on future educational attainment and life chances. Children who don’t achieve a GLD by age 5 will go on to struggle with their literacy, numeracy, physical and social skills. This can have an impact on outcomes in later life; particularly around health, future earnings, involvement in crime, and death.

There are a number of factors that can impact on children reaching a GLD and being school ready, including:

  • gender: boys are 1.3x less likely to have a GLD compared to girls
  • ethnicity: Gypsy and Roma pupils are 3.3x less likely to have a GLD compared to White British pupils
  • family income: those eligible for free school meals are 1.3x less likely to have a GLD compared to those who are not eligible
  • individual circumstances: children with a statement of education needs are 3.5x less likely to have a GLD compared to those who do not have one

Early measures that have been shown to improve children’s school readiness include good maternal health (1 in 10 new mothers in London will suffer from a perinatal mental illness), learning activities (speaking to your baby and reading with your child), enhancing physical activity, high quality early education and parenting support programmes.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for PHE London, said:

The first 5 years of a child’s life, the foundation years, are absolutely critical; healthy early child development is fundamental to school readiness, which can have a major impact on a child’s life chances.

We want to make sure all children in London develop to their full potential and are prepared for the challenges of school and beyond.

Effective parenting is a key element in maximising children’s opportunities in life and PHE strives to support the provision of parenting programmes across London.

In addition to parental intervention, there is an economic benefit to children being school ready. Investing in quality early care and education has shown to have a greater return on investment than many other economic development options, for example:

  • every £1 invested in quality early care and education saves taxpayers up to £13 in future costs
  • for every £1 spent on early years education, £7 has to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence

The cost of delivering these services are outweighed by the benefits to the individual, and to taxpayers and others, through improved educational outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, reduced crime and increased taxes paid, due to increased earnings as adults.

Dr Marilena Korkodilos, a paediatrician and child health lead for PHE London, said:

We have produced this report to further educate healthcare professionals, parents and carers about the importance of school readiness, show what interventions can improve a child’s levels of development and what can impact on it.

We hope our work will contribute to helping give all children in London the best start in life with the resilience, confidence and personal skills to be able to learn.


  • Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk and @PHE_London.
  • To assess school readiness a measure called the good level of development (GLD) is used; children are defined as having reached a GLD at the end of the Early Years Foundation stage (from birth to 5 years old) if they achieve the expected level in the prime areas of learning.
  • The indicators for school readiness, part of the Public Health Outcomes Framework have been available since 2012.
  • The report, ‘Improving school readiness: creating a better start for London’ is available online.
  • Data by London borough is available on pages 11 to 14.

London PHE press office

London press office
151 Buckingham Palace Road


Published 10 August 2015