Across Germany, schoolchildren have returned to the classroom after the summer holidays. In the state of Lower Saxony, as in most of Germany’s federal states, children due to start school this year underwent medical and development checks organised by the state’s health authority, the Governmental Institute of Public Health (Niedersächsisches Landesgesundheitsamt, NLGA). One of the principal findings of the checks on last year’s cohort is that one-fifth of future school starters in the state had problems with speech and/or language. As Holger Scharlach, spokesman for the NLGA, commented, boys were more frequently affected than girls, with the figures at 25 and 17 per cent respectively.
Continuing, Scharlach emphasised the significant influence of parental education on children’s language development. The checks found that children from homes with less highly educated parents were considerably more likely to suffer from language problems (31.3 per cent) than those with higher levels of parental education (15.1 per cent).
The pre-school checks in Lower Saxony in 2016 covered 65,000 children, with official school doctors examining their coordination, perception, sight and hearing, speech and language abilities, weight and motor skills. The aim of the checks is ‘to identify at as early a stage as possible any health and development problems with relevance to [children’s] schooling and initiate preventative measures in time [to make a difference]’, says the NLGA on his website.
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