ALMOST a third of Dorset children who start school are doing so without the skills they need.

And the position in the county is worsening – with 68.8 per cent now judged to be ‘school ready’ compared to 70.1 per cent a year ago.

A report to county councillors warns that the impact can be felt for years, sometimes throughout life: “Those that don’t reach a good level of development are already behind their peers so start school life with more ground to catch up and inequalities can continue throughout school life. School readiness at age five has a strong impact on future educational attainment and life chances,” says a report which the county’s People and Communities Overview and Scrutiny committee will see tomorrow .

It suggests that much of the problem starts at home; “School readiness starts at birth with the support of parents and carers, when young children acquire the social and emotional skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for success in school and life. Children who don’t achieve a good level of development at age five can struggle with social skills, reading, maths and physical skills.”

The report says that girls are tending to do better than boys and those that are most likely to not be school ready generally come from the poorest households.

Nationally Dorset is in the third quarter of counties and it is suggested that areas for improvement include ore-school literacy and maths.

The reports also says that although there has been a small reduction in the proportion of vulnerable two year old children in Dorset taking up their free entitlement to early years education, this is still in the highest quartile nationally and remains significantly higher than national figures.