Recent research funded by the Nuffield Foundation looks at why children from poorer areas had “stark deficits in the most basic language abilities” compared with age-matched children in more affluent areas.
The study by City University London looked at the language skills of 208 children between three-and-a-half and five years old in a disadvantaged area of east London. A comparison group was comprised of 168 preschool children from more socioeconomically advantaged areas of north and south London. All the children spoke English as their first language.
The disadvantaged group scored lower than children from more affluent areas and from the general population on core language functions such as accurately repeating words and simple sentences and capacity to learn new words. More than one in ten children in the disadvantaged group had clinically significant language problems.
At an 18-month follow-up, when the children’s average age was five years, the deficit gap in core language skills had narrowed. This improvement suggested that the problem was not due to impairment and could be countered by education.
A key finding was that language problems were mitigated by regular attendance at preschool. The authors said that their results emphasised the need for access to high-quality preschool care from qualified staff trained to recognise and respond to language problems.
Source: Language and Socioeconomic Disadvantage: From Research to Practice (2015), City University London