FEARS have been raised about a link between poverty and children's development in Trafford.

MP Kate Green has raised concerns after figures show that nearly half of children in Stretford and Urmston receiving free school meals do not reach the expected level of speech and language skills by the age of five.

Figures from Save the Children show that 27 per cent of children in the area did not reach the expected levels of speech and language skills by the time they were five years old.

This increased to 47 per cent of the children on free school meals, meaning that children from the poorest are twice as likely to fail to reach the expected level of attainment by the age of five.

Research by Save the Children shows that falling behind at an early age has a significant impact on their attainment throughout school and their prospects in adulthood.

This is the second time this year the issue of poverty has been raised.

Ms Green wrote to the Trafford Council leader Sean Anstee in January to express her anger that, in some areas of Trafford, almost half of all children are growing up in poverty.

She said there are huge contrasts in the levels of child poverty across the borough of Trafford, with 41 per cent of children growing up in poverty in Bucklow St Martins, which includes Partington, Carrington and parts of Sale, compared with just six per cent in Timperley.

Cllr Anstee said the council has introduced measures to reduce child poverty.

But Ms Green said the Save the Children figures reveal there is still a big gap in attainment between the youngest children getting Free School Meals and those who do not.

Last week, the Tory government voted through changes in Universal Credit which will leave more than 4,000 poor children in Trafford without a free school meal.

Ms Green said: “We should be concerned when any young child doesn’t meet the expected requirements for speech and language skills.

"But it is a disgrace that in Stretford and Urmston, how well you’ll get on at school is determined by how much money your family have got, even at the young age of five.

“Though Trafford Council says it is taking action to reduce the difference between the richest and the poorest, it is clear that more needs to be done.

“I will continue to press the council and the government at every opportunity to make sure that all children across Trafford have a fair start in life.”

Jill Colbert, Trafford Council corporate director for children, families and well-being, said: “Access to high-quality early education is crucial to closing the gap in health, education and social inequalities.

“The 40 per cent most disadvantaged two-year-olds are entitled to a free place of 15 hours per week.

"Take up of this entitlement in Trafford is high with the latest data showing 109.6 per cent of take up of the two-year offer.

"All three and four year olds are entitled to a free place of 15 hours per week, with an additional entitlement of up to 30 hours per week for working parents. Take up of the universal entitlement consistently exceeds 100 per cent in Trafford.

“Since 2013, there are two key measures in which Trafford has consistently performed well and achieved results significantly higher than the national and regional averages; a good level of development and the average total point score.

“Although the majority of children in Trafford do well in these two areas, it is recognised that more needs to be done to make sure we meet the needs of our most disadvantaged children so we narrow the gap.

“As a result, the multi-agency Early Years Strategic Board has the overarching strategic aim to increase the proportion of children who are ready for school at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage and narrow the gap between the highest achievers and our most disadvantaged children.”