Start schooling later than age five, say experts

Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing “profound damage” to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts is warning. This is from the Telegraph

Traditional lessons should be put on hold for up to two years amid fears that successive governments have promoted a “too much, too soon” culture in schools and nurseries, it is claimed.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders call for a fundamental reassessment of national policies on early education.

It is claimed that the current system robs infants of the ability to play and puts too much emphasis on formal learning in areas such as the three Rs at a young age. The letter warns that the Coalition is now ratcheting up the requirements with policies that prioritise “school readiness” over free play.

This includes the possible introduction of a new baseline test for five-year-olds in England and qualifications for child care staff that make little reference to learning through play, they say.

…A spokesman for Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said the signatories were “misguided”, suggesting they advocated dumbing down.

“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools,” the spokesman said.

“We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer — a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about ‘self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”

By law, children must be in school by the age of five, although the vast majority are enrolled in reception classes aged four.

…The letter is circulated by the Save Childhood Movement, which is launching the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign tomorrow.

It will push for a series of reforms, including a new “developmentally appropriate”, play-based early years framework for nurseries and schools, covering children between the age of three and seven.

Wendy Ellyatt, the founding director of the movement, said: “Despite the fact that 90 per cent of countries in the world prioritise social and emotional learning and start formal schooling at six or seven, in England we seem grimly determined to cling on to the erroneous belief that starting sooner means better results later.

“There is nothing wrong with seeking high educational standards and accountability, but there is surely something very wrong indeed if this comes at the cost of natural development.”

At the moment, most English children start school in nursery or reception classes at the age of three or four and are taught using the Early Years Foundation Stage — a compulsory “nappy curriculum”.

They are assessed against targets set out in the EYFS, which covers areas such as personal and social development, communication and early numeracy, before moving on to formal lessons in the first full year of school aged five…

More at:  Start schooling later than age five, say experts

See the letter here: The Government should stop intervening in early education

What are your thoughts on the best approach to early years education? Should formal lessons be delayed until six or seven or would that be, as Michael Gove suggests, misguided and counter-productive for disadvantaged children? Please give us your thoughts, insights and feedback…

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Categories: Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove By utterly dismissing different views on education as “misguided”, can ministers/DfE claim not to be driven by ideology?

  2. Miss_Life_Coach

    SchoolsImprove focus on the quality of teaching and learning and not the number of years in education. #play #explore #learn

  3. DiversEQ

    SchoolsImprove Social & emotional learning is already a part if most primary schools curriculum this needs to continue into secondary!

  4. DiversEQ

    HylandMcCabe SchoolsImprove Had to set up my own S&E learning group in the secondary I worked at. Good to hear many schools already do it!

  5. LaCatholicState

    SchoolsImprove Yes….school is too regimented and impersonal for young children. Home schooling perfect for mother and young children.

  6. OurSchoolsE17

    LaCatholicState SchoolsImprove huh? What about fathers? Or is this in that fantasy world where all mothers stay at home?

  7. andylutwyche

    LaCatholicState SchoolsImprove Govt encouraging both mothers and fathers to work so who will home educate their children?

  8. ishyrawat

    Nazrana01 I went to a parents info day at my daughters school, the amount she has to do in reception is ridiculous. She is only 4!

  9. LaCatholicState

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove
    Still there are some stay-at-home mothers…who should be encouraged to home school during early years to 7

  10. BethDunn11

    SchoolsImprove FS staff need less pressure to get chn to read n write & be able to give them hands on experiences, a love of books etc

  11. ClaireTVI

    DanielAyres TVInfants we believe we get the balance right – encouraging play & individuality whilst growing children’s learning skills.

  12. janey23HT

    BethDunn11 SchoolsImprove I agree, but keeping them out of school will just widen the gap for many. Get the provision right, focus on need

  13. BethDunn11

    janey23HT SchoolsImprove that’s what I was saying need to get the foundations right without forcing them to read & write when not ready

  14. janey23HT

    BethDunn11 SchoolsImprove just been on BBCbreakfast talking about it. Not about right age to start school, about school being right 4child

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