Children may not be physically ready to start school

The Independent is reporting that new research has revealed that today’s four-year-olds may not be physically ready to start school.

A “concerning” number of today’s four-year-olds are not physically ready to start school, new research has revealed, with children’s mobility levels said to be at an all-time low. Early-years specialists monitoring children of school age found a higher number experience problems with their balance and coordination than previously thought, ultimately affecting their ability to learn in class.

The tests suggest up to 30 per cent of children are starting school with symptoms typically associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD – conditions which can be improved with the correct levels of physical activity, experts say.

Dr Rebecca Duncombe, who led the study, said the lack of physical ability shown demonstrated that children are not as active as they should be in the beginning of their lives.

“Our research shows that not only are children starting school less physically ready than ever before, but that teachers are noticing this change and its impact in the classroom.”

More at: Children may not be physically ready to start school

What do you think is the right age for a child to start school? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter.~ Meena

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  1. It clearly shows that children are not playing in the ways, and not for as many hours day after day, as they once did both in the early years and throughout childhood, right up to university age. Research by many of the leading experts and the major universities of the world has proven this to be the case.
    We know for a fact that children tested for fitness and physical literacy at age six now are nowhere near the standard of all previous generations, with only one in twelve children today achieving the same level of capability, health and fitness as eleven out of twelve did in the same battery of tests just a generation ago. 
    This ‘Daily Mile’ idea and similar fads are not the answer. Nor is a narrow diet of  ‘sport, sport and more sport’ because sports simply don’t reach the group of children who actually need the greatest amount of support; the 28-30% of all children who are simply ‘non-sporty’ and never will be. Force them against their will and they’ll only hate all forms of physical activity even more, yet let them freely play and they’ll run around all day long, having fun and getting fitter.

    I can remember the name of the one child at my primary school of 250 pupils who was overweight – Tubby Shooter – but now one third of all children in a school are overweight! Only this week it was announced that the most purchased size of school uniform this summer was XL.
    PE certainly helps some children, as do certain formal sports/games lessons (how often is the fat kid picked for the team last and then stuck out on the wing, standing around and keeping out of the way while the talented kids chase the ball?), but PE and Sports lessons can only contribute 2-3 hours of activity per week, whereas there are always 6 hours of potentially active playtimes at school every week, which can be easily topped up with another 2 hours of active play per evening and over 6 hours per day at the weekend (and during holidays) if only parents would put some effort into shoving their kids out of the door for a while (and I’ve heard all the excuses).

    The fact is, the only way children will ever approach the standard of fitness, physical literacy, cognitive and social development of all previous generations is if they are once again able to access the same quality of play environment, for as many hours, as all previous generations did. The diet I had as a very skinny and increadibly active child, living in ‘poverty’ in the 1960s, wasn’t nearly as healthy as it is for most kids now (despite all the current fashion for whinging about burgers,sugar and fat) but back then my parents chucked me outside after a breakfast with far more sugar in it than you’ll find today and told me not to come back home until the next mealtime. 
    Nowadays, it seems to require real effort on the part of parents just to shove their kids outside for a while, unless, of course, you do it from a very early age, in which case it quickly becomes normal, in which case the children will grow up well-balanced and healthy.
    Selfishness and excuses come too easily now.

  2. MelCarpenter

    Socially, four, or even earlier is a good age to start school, nursery or pre-school, especially for children who have development issues that might not otherwise get ‘picked up on’- such as the one stated in this article. However, structured schooling would be best left until much later (what we call key-stage 2 in the UK) when children have had time to develop the physically and emotionally skills they will need to be effective learners. Until then a play based curriculum is far more productive than trying to cram kids with learning – much of which will be repeated later in their school careers by which time they will be bored to tears by it!!

  3. @MelCarpenter Would it not help if there was more clarity on school stages? For example, if the learning was really play based then children of any age could have a place (for more on play based learning see this interview with TEDx speaker Alistair Bryce-Clegg ) but if it was not play based, but formal/traditional then it’s not helpful for student or teacher to have students not ready in the classroom. I’ve recently learnt that while Germany begins formal Primary education at around 7 years old, all children are seen by a special doctor before starting school who checks they are school ready. If it’s in the child’s interest to wait before starting school that is what happens. Seems sensible to me than there’s a quick painless system so that age is not the the only determining factor in readiness for formal learning. Interested in your thoughts. Leah

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