Lefty ‘experts’ who want children to start school at seven will create a generation of illiterates

Toby Young disagrees with the 127 signatories of the letter to the Telegraph yesterday suggesting formal schooling should not start until 6 or 7 because, he believes, such a move would further disadvantage children from poor backgrounds. This is an extract from the Telegraph

…What’s surprising about finding the names of so many Left-wingers beneath this letter is that pushing back the date at which children start school will exacerbate the impact that inequality has on children’s life chances, not ameliorate it. In particular, it will further disadvantage children from poor backgrounds.

The letter claims that “research does not support” the government’s belief that a more structured approach to early years education will boost educational attainment, particularly among the least well-off. In fact, there’s a robust body of evidence to support this view.

My colleague Tom Chivers has published a blog post this morning drawing attention to the Perry Preschool Project, an American experiment designed to measure the impact of high-quality nursery education on poor children:

Between 1962 and 1967, 123 poor children, aged three and four, were randomly assigned to two groups: one group received high-quality preschool education, and the other did not. The trial then followed those two groups of children throughout their lives. The results were startling… [snip]… [A] quality preschool education led to a dramatic reduction in arrests, a dramatic increase in educational and earning achievements, higher IQ in childhood, and a vast, vast saving to the public exchequer. Getting poor kids into good-quality education early – from the age of three or four – seems to transform their life chances, and it pays for itself many times over.

Numerous further studies have made similar findings. There’s the Carolina Abecedarian Project, for instance, and the Effective Provision of Free School Education in the UK. In a blog post earlier this year, I drew attention to a research paper by six American economists – four from Harvard, one from Berkeley and one from Northwestern – which found that children who’d had a good kindergarten teacher could expect, on average, to earn $20 more per week at the age of 27 than children who hadn’t.

The research, which was based on a longitudinal study involving more than 11,500 children in Tennessee, also found that recipients of a good nursery education were less likely to become teenage parents, more likely to go to university and less likely to die young. The findings of the paper were summarised by David Leonhardt in the New York Times, who concluded: “Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance.”…

More at:  Lefty ‘experts’ who want children to start school at seven will create a generation of illiterates

Is @toadmeister justified in pointing out that a delay to formal education would only end up harming the children who are already most disadvantaged? Tell us what you think of his arguments in the comments or via twitter…

Headteacher mocks child's mother on Facebook after she brought granny to meeting at school
'Full facts' performance tables promised on sixth forms and colleges
Categories: Pre-school and Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove And Toby Young’s qualifications are…? Whether you agree/disagree with him, he is in no position to make informed comment

  2. Penny_Ten

    SchoolsImprove many kids will be at nurseries 8-6 from age 2 anyway cos parents work. Not all can be yummy mummy stay at home mums til 7

  3. inwte

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove If Toby’s that concerned about educating the poor why does he not open some #freeschools for them? #challenge

  4. Miss_Life_Coach

    SchoolsImprove the best education system in the world and still you can leave school at 16 Illiterate? #how? #shocking #intervention

  5. JeniHooper

    SchoolsImprove so Toby Young where is the evidence that countries starting formal ed post 6 create disadvantage and illiteracy?

  6. Debsthered

    SchoolsImprove toadmeister The article relies on evidence from the states. Should we not analyse evidence from Scandinavian countries too?

  7. WellBeingkaty

    Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove That is not the point. It’s what happens in the nurseries and early years at school which is important.

  8. 3Diassociates

    JeniHooper SchoolsImprove What they fail to understand is that we all agree children need high-quality learning environments – from birth.

  9. 3Diassociates

    JeniHooper SchoolsImprove The argument is abt what constitutes a high quality learning environment. Why does it have to be ‘formal’? Ever?

  10. Sue_Cowley

    3Diassociates JeniHooper SchoolsImprove it suits them to suggest that is *not* what is being said, and to suggest that we advocate chaos

  11. 3Diassociates

    Sue_Cowley JeniHooper SchoolsImprove Either chaos, or non- learning, or neglect. These people are sinister, relentless & lack integrity.

  12. morris_emma

    WellBeingkaty Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove Who is going to foot the bill for extended child care to age 7? Rich and poor division.

  13. PhilipH1951

    The question following this blog post is – What constitutes a good kindergarten /Nursery etc teacher and what constitutes good provision for 3-5 year olds.  We do not have to delay the start of school, just the start of schoolification and imposed concepts of school readiness. Every 3-5 year old can benefit from being in school if the school they are in respond to their developmental needs. This blog post  misses the point completely.

  14. JeniHooper

    3Diassociates Sue_Cowley SchoolsImprove look up Turnip Taliban for an example of how Truss deals with opposition. #Norfolk

  15. Sue_Cowley

    JeniHooper 3Diassociates SchoolsImprove I’ve just typed up word for word what trussliz said on Newsnight, will blog w/ commentary later!

  16. Sue_Cowley

    JeniHooper 3Diassociates SchoolsImprove an apparent *commitment* was made not to impose testing at age 5 – this needs publishing online.

  17. Jan_Rush

    SchoolsImprove wasn’t the original really calling for a delay to formal education rather than a delay to starting school?

  18. ChrisChivers2

    3Diassociates SchoolsImprove JeniHooper It is easy to use direct instruction within an informal setting; teaching to identified needs.

  19. neilayates

    SchoolsImprove Funny how that simplistic prediction has not been vindicated in Finland? And I’m no lefty either. #politicalnonsense

  20. artmadnana

    SchoolsImprove Proof that TB should not be in charge of any child’s education. We are talking about ‘Formal’ education stupid!

  21. Sherbs1

    Rustylink1 Whats ‘lefty’ about it Rusty Finland top performing country, starts formal ED at 7yrsNothing to do with left or right wing dogma

  22. ChrisChivers2

    SchoolsImprove toadmeister Literacy starts with oracy, develops from/through experiences, broadened by literature. Adult support roles.

  23. Rustylink1

    Sherbs1 Not my remarks you might have noted, but a direct quotation of a “Schools Improvement Net” headline for article they reffered to

  24. Rustylink1

    Sherbs1 You rightly point out Finlalnd has success with this approach.The Fr-system with little early’real education’ is however a disaster

  25. PartridgeISM

    toadmeister just tweeted a flowchart on how to use research to refute or support an argument. Just saying. ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove

  26. artmadnana

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove who cares what TY thinks anyway except other right-wingers! And he is responsible for children’s education?

  27. Darklady1974

    SchoolsImprove if early years education is so important why have successive governments cut back on availability? No full time places now.

  28. BramRaider

    SchoolsImprove Because Toby Young obviously is a better educationalist that most other European countries experts. Toby Young = ignorant.

  29. murphiegirl

    SchoolsImprove It’s formal testing that the experts rightly object to. We can’t escape context of poverty in UK compared with progressive

  30. murphiegirl

    SchoolsImprove (2) countries that begin formal education at 7. The most disadvantaged children do benefit from social aspects of schl at 5.

  31. ChrisChivers2

    murphiegirl SchoolsImprove Interesting question; to what extent is socialisation precursor to learning? Learn to.. before learn what&how.

  32. murphiegirl

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove I expect early years teachers would verify link between acq of social skills & levels of basic lit/num/oracy?

  33. ChrisChivers2

    murphiegirl SchoolsImprove I was, at one stage 4-8 DH, so wld argue social skills essential for progress; play, work, think together-oracy

  34. murphiegirl

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove Makes perfect sense.That’s why I’d continue to argue that well-directed grp work can aid learning (all ages)

  35. andylutwyche

    artmadnana SchoolsImprove One person who actually listen to TY is the SoS unfortunately – massaging each other’s egos

  36. biscuitsarenice

    SchoolsImprove who the F is Toby Young in the field of Education? Ignorance and arrogance are valued by this gov over research & sense


    SchoolsImprove this doesn’t prove anything. Of course we shd be in favour of high quality preschool ed. The question is about methodology

  38. AndyKent3

    toadmeister SchoolsImprove imho this is not an approach that aids understanding of complex issues
    Accept can be fun of course

  39. CarolNeild

    SchoolsImprove In California they start at 6/7 but step it up quickly. Kids are confident, positive. focused. Some even get to Stanford!

  40. SearleHelen

    SchoolsImprove per school education is essential, it’s when the more formal element of reading and writing should start.

  41. DenrooneyDenise

    SchoolsImprove Young children can learn more through play than through formal teaching. Has he been in a f1 or f2 class recently?!

  42. GrahamFrost1

    DenrooneyDenise SchoolsImprove Once again, a commentator making all sorts of assumptions with limited experience or evidence to support.

  43. westyorkskat

    SchoolsImprove Missing the difference between pre-school education thru play and formal learning and testing. 2 very different things!

  44. DenrooneyDenise

    GrahamFrost1 SchoolsImprove a really insightful blog;I totally agree. Shouting professionals down, is not the way to improve or succeed.

Let us know what you think...