Decrease in toddlers reaching key development milestones

The number of North Yorkshire toddlers developing key skills of early childhood at two years of age has dropped sharply, new figures have revealed.

Saturday, 8th February 2020, 10:02 am
Public Health England data shows that 69.3% of children in this area met expectations in the five key areas.

Charity Action for Children says it’s “deeply worrying” that some youngsters in the country are falling behind in their critical first few years, and is urging the Government to reverse a decline in services caused by council budget cuts.

Public Health England data shows that 69.3% of children met expectations in five areas: communication, problem solving, social interaction, fine motor skills (holding objects and drawing) and gross motor skills such as walking without falling and kicking a ball.

That’s down from 86.9% over the same period in 2018.

Every three months, nursery nurses and health visitors examine thousands of children aged between two and two-and-a-half years old in England to check their mental and physical development, as part of the Healthy Child Programme in the UK.

The two-year health check, one of the key reviews of the programme, gives parents an insight into how well their child is progressing.

The latest statistics cover July to September last year, when more than 100,000 youngsters from 128 council areas were seen.

Across England, the proportion of children at or above the expected level in all five areas of development fell slightly to 82.1% in 2019 – putting North Yorkshire well below the national average.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “It’s deeply worrying so many toddlers are falling behind when it comes to crucial skills like communicating and playing with other children. Rather than catching up, in some parts of the country we’re seeing youngsters falling further behind on some of the key building blocks they need for a safe and happy childhood.

“Every day in our services we see how critical the first few years are to children as they develop at a whirlwind pace, unmatched at any other time in their lives. “

He added that the early years services for parents, such as children’s centres, are vital to giving children the best start in life.