A UNIQUE programme designed by North East education consultants to help give children the best start in life has been shortlisted for a national award.

Linda Tallent and her team at the Learning and Training Consultancy (LTC) in North Shields, North Tyneside, have created an early intervention toolkit for schools and nurseries. It aims to help children who are not reaching age-related expectations to catch up with their peers.

The toolkit, known as the itkit, has now been shortlisted for the Nursery World Awards, which are the leading accolades for the early years sector.

Linda has spent over 30 years working in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and champions the vital role of early intervention to help narrow the gap between more able and less able children before they start school at five.

“Systematic early intervention is key to giving children the building blocks they need for a lifelong love of learning,” she said. “There is no point waiting until children start school at five. We need to identify any developmental problems as early as possible and act on them as quickly as we can.

“I have seen children start school with physical development delays, such as walking awkwardly, difficulty pedalling or jumping with both feet. But this may be because they have not been given enough opportunity to crawl or run and be active, as they have spent too much time in their early years in car seats, or bouncers, or buggies instead of playing outside.

“Others have language delay – but that may be in some cases because they have not had enough interaction with adults. Children today spend much more time than in the past watching screens and this has an impact on their communication development.

“But with a programme of personalised, basic activities carried out regularly, many children can learn the skills they need to narrow the gap with their peers.”

A report published by the charity the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), found a fifth of children lacked the expected personal, social and emotional development when they started school. A quarter of children were unable to communicate at the level expected for their age, it added.

The itkit is now being used in schools and nurseries across the country.

Activities include space-hopping to build core strength and improve gross motor skills, blowing bubbles to improve mouth muscles and help with communication and one-to-one role play activities.

The itkit was shortlisted in the best staff resources category and the winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on September 24.

For more information visit http://www.learningandtraining.co.uk/