A new study has found that over one third of 5-year olds growing up in poverty in Northern Ireland are in the lowest performing school group.
Save the Children also revealed that around half of these children who are behind in their language ability at 5-years old remain behind until their early teens.
However, around half also moved out of the low performers group, highlighting that a child’s future isn’t pre-determined by their socio-economic status.
Peter Bryson, Head of Save the Children in Northern Ireland, said: "Too many children in Northern Ireland are falling behind even before they start school. We have a commitment in the Programme for Government to give every child the best start in life.
“It is crucial that interventions focusing on breaking the link between poverty and educational achievement take place long before children start school, when the need is greatest and they can make the most difference,” adds Mr Bryson.
With over 100,000 children in Northern Ireland living in poverty, Save the Children have called on the government to prioritise investment in high-quality early education and childcare to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children and tackle the predicted increase in child poverty.