The sessions they provide are mostly free in Staffordshire. They are sourced from the leading pre-school activity providers in the area and strive for excellent service. There's choices of messy play, yoga, Debutots drama, music with mummy, cookery club and of course our own Smart Talkers Pre-School Communication groups to name but a few. It sounds great doesn't it and in most of the centres it works really well. However, because of the level of apathy in some of the areas or in the sections of society they most want to attract, the numbers attending are limited. In one Centre I couldn't get anyone at all and after 3 weeks of twiddling my thumbs, we had to give up. I'd tried everything possible including posters in local shops and newsagents, a newspaper article, adverts, netmums etc and contacted all the health professionals, local nurseries, pre-schools and other groups.
At these centres, I see mothers with pyjamas under their coats dropping youngsters off at the adjacent school claiming they're going back to bed, others chatting aimlessly smoking with their mates at the school gate. They usually have a pre-schooler or two in tow (complete with the essential badge..... sorry dummy). They would be welcome at the groups but they'd prefer to do nothing except press the button on the remote control for little Keesha or KayD.
Unfortunately, many of these little ones suffer from a lack of appropriate stimulation and as a result are likely to have an increased risk of delayed speech, language and communication. This will then mean that they will have problems with written language as spoken language skills are the building blocks for written language.
Unfortunately, research shows that the gap at aged 7 years is likely to persist into adulthood. This has in turn been linked to lower expected socio-economic status in later adult by such eminent scholars as Professor James Law from City University. Another US study showed that language deprivation and teen pregnancy can be linked.It is estimated here in the UK that 75% of young offenders have speech, language and communication difficulties of some type or other.
These problems could be transient difficulties i.e. they'd develop appropriate skills with stimulation or intervention, but will be real and intrusive. These cases are not to be confused with speech, language and communication disorders which are unavoidable and will need speech and language therapy input, these are children who are language deprived.
We're not entirely sure what is happening to the children's centres after April 1st 2011 but one thing is for certain.... we cant stop trying to engage with these families by breaking through the apathy. There's too much at stake to stop!