A child's start in life is still determined by the class, education, marital status, and ethnic background of its parents. By the age of three, children from disadvantaged families are already lagging a full year behind their middle-class contemporaries in social and educational development.
That is the damning conclusion of a study monitoring around 16,000 families of children born across the UK in 2000-2. An assessment of vocabulary revealed that children of graduates are ten months ahead of those with the least-educated parents, and a separate assessment measuring children's understanding of colours, letters, numbers, sizes, and shapes found an even wider gap of twelve months between the two groups.
Parents' education was not the only significant factor, however. For, although black African parents were more likely to have degrees than white parents, a quarter of the black Caribbean and black African children assessed were delayed in their development, compared with only 4% of white children. Here the difference appears to be caused by the children's family background: a third of black African (32%) and almost half the black Caribbean children (47%) were being brought up by lone mothers, compared with just 14% of white children and 5% of Indian children who had lone parents. This is an important factor, as the analysis also showed nearly three-quarters (72%) of children with single parents live below the poverty line.
In a worrying confirmation of the extent of another problem that has emerged in the last five years, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, who carried out the research, also reports that almost one child in four is overweight (18%) or obese (5%) at age three. This study also revealed a similar difference attributable to race and class. Just 9% of Indian children overweight or obese compared with 23% of White and 33% of Black Caribbean children. Equally, children in more advantaged areas of England and Scotland were less likely to be overweight or obese than those living in less advantaged areas.
Late last year, Tony Blair claimed the Sure Start programme, designed to help the children in Britain's most deprived families, was "one of the Government's greatest achievements." Can anyone tell me what NuLabour has actually achieved with the £3,000,000,000 of tax-payers' money that it has poured into the scheme?