COMMONS

Education Committee web forum: School Starting Age

The Education Committee invites views on the strength of the evidence in relation to the current policy and on the international evidence on the relationship between school starting age and student achievement.

Thank you for all comments submitted to the ‘Evidence Check’ forum. The forum is now closed. Comments received will help the Committee evaluate the evidence received from the Department for Education.

The Committee will use the comments to select topics for one-off oral evidence sessions in early 2015.

Evidence

Please read the Department's evidence on school starting age:

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64 Responses to School Starting Age

Shirley Huggett says:
November 25, 2014 at 09:14 PM
Having just returned from Hungary where I have been experiencing the kindergartens and studying the Hungarian core programme, I can not understand why our children start school so early. The children I saw had good social skills were polite and behave extremely well. They played they had fun and they were happy! They were learning skills for life. We could learn a lot from other countries as ours are the youngest doesn't anyone think we may have got it wrong!
Christine Merrell says:
November 23, 2014 at 08:11 PM
At the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham University, we have analysed data collected from our school monitoring systems to investigate school starting age. Information can be found in this report: Tymms, P., Jones, P., Merrell, C., Henderson, B. and Cowie, M. (2004) Children Starting
School in Scotland. A report of research funded by the Scottish Executive Education
Department.
Children's age at the start of school in Scotland was linked to their progress up to Primary 3. The report stated that "Overall, when we looked at the progress of the children starting from entry in the beginning of P1 to the end of P3 we found no evidence at all
that there was an optimum age for starting school."
The report also includes information about the relationship between amount of pre-school and attainment at the start of school for children in England and Scotland. A clear positive relationship between number of terms of attendance at nursery and attainment at the start of school for children in England but no clear relationship for children in Scotland.

A more recent analysis of the relationship between pre-school and attainment at the start of school was reported in: Tymms, P., Merrell, C., Hawker, D. and Nicholson, F. (2014) Performance Indicators in Primary Schools: A comparison of performance on entry to school and the progress made in the first year in England and four other jurisdictions: Research report. Department for Education: London. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/performance-indicators-in-primary-schools
This report concluded that "although based on limited data, the data suggests that one or two terms has little impact on the total score at the start of school, but that three or more terms are positively linked to the total score after taking into account age and deprivation".
Mary Lawler says:
November 22, 2014 at 07:06 PM
I think school should start at (primary/reception) with longer term in nursery.
v.s. says:
November 21, 2014 at 02:02 PM
starting at age 6 or 7 is early enough as kids do get tired of schooling and if they start later and finish later (age 18) they will be more mature to make better life choices..
Rachel Broad says:
November 21, 2014 at 01:49 PM
I too agree with the majority of comments on this issue. I strongly believe that our chuldren are starting school far too young. My son was 3 in July and struggled for 7 weeks at preschool to settle in, eventually becoming very withdrawn both st school and at home. We have now made the decision to keep him at home and will do so far the next few years. Our older son's birthday is March and he is doing very well at school. However, only having one teacher and one TA in a class of four/five year olds has meant that there is a lot of upset and repetitiveness. Most of us are responsible who only want the best for our children and sending them off for the day is definately not the best for them. They would learn much faster and be much more enthusiastic for learning if they were emotionally ready. Although I support the use of preschools, where my son was, was part of a school and as such had all the rules of the school. They were expected to follow a curriculum, in a proper classroom in full uniform! This is not a nurturing environment I want for my young children.
Harriet Rhodes says:
November 21, 2014 at 01:31 PM
This is not so much a question of school starting age as providing an age-appropriate curriculum for young children. There is overwhelming evidence to support a predominantly child-centred pedagogy until children are 6/7. This develops the children's love of learning, curiosity, confidence etc.. Young children need to develop positive dispositions to learning. This, combined with an ability to self-regulate and be effective as part of a social group is vital to their future success. However, the obsession with testing means that these fundamental skills are too often subsumed within a culture which is primarily focused on reading/phonics/maths. Although these things are undoubtedly important, they are currently 'taught' inappropriately due to poor curriculum expectations and an outcomes-driven agenda. Teachers fear not hitting targets and consequently devote too much curriculum time to didactic methods. I have seen three year olds, sitting passively on a carpet for half an hour while they were 'taught' maths by a teacher standing at an interactive white board. Not only is this poor practice, it is tantamount to child abuse. We should think very carefully about the needs of children - they should express their learning through the medium of play. There are implications for children's confidence and mental health if policy-makers continue to ignore this.
Allis Ross says:
November 21, 2014 at 01:19 PM
One of the recently recruited Chinese maths teachers was interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV this morning. When asked about the main difference between Chinese and British pupils, she responded that they are both equally keen to learn but that children in China do not start school until they are seven years old whereas the English children she is now teaching are just five. For many families it would be impracticable to raise the school starting age but I agree with many leading child educationalists that the EYFS or another play based curriculum should be extended until the end of year 1, when all children will be at least 6 years old. For many children, particularly the youngest in the class, the demands of a year 1 class are developmentally inappropriate and children are being put off education for life.
helen Spall says:
November 20, 2014 at 04:10 PM
Tere was an enormous difference in my two boys. On born may 06 was hindered by starting school a 4. He was not ready emotionally. He was put off reading by being put in front of repetitive text for months on end. He was bright enough however to see that others were making progress and was lagging behind. This caused him to withdraw and become resentful and unmotivated to learn. The stress resulted in constipation and subsequent soiled pants along with teasing. This has continued to affect confidence in class, which is obvious to me as I see a different child in other environments. His younger sibling born nov 08 was desperate to get to school. He is frustrated by the less mature children. Parents should be allowed to asses what is right for their child after being given more information about their progress and whatbis expected of them. I would support blending age groups in infant classes.
Claire Marjoram Wills says:
November 20, 2014 at 01:03 PM
I feel the school starting age should be raised to the term after a child turns 6 with an optional reception year the term after they turn 5. Four is just too young for many, they struggle with the parental separation, the long days and requirements of a classroom. I wholeheartedly believe the school environment shouldn't be used as child care but for beneficial purposes for both the children and teaching staff and at 4 there are too many pastoral issues for education to be effective. Add into that summer birthdays and you have children in school who are scarcely 4 being compared with children, who at such a young age, appear so much more mature. My own son will be 4 and 2 weeks when he is expected to join Reception and I do not believe he will be anywhere near ready yet if he doesn't go the jump from home to a full seated learning classroom at 5 is too great. By raising the age to 6 we enable our children to be on a more level playing field and developmentally more ready and able to learn as our Scandinavian counterparts are proving.
Lucy Bishton says:
November 20, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Although the guidelines are quite clear, as a parent I was unaware of them. I had to fight to allow my daughter (July birthday) to continue in Reception part-time after the first two weeks. The school were reluctant to accommodate our wishes despite the fact that she was struggling emotionally and with extreme tiredness. They agreed to let her continue part time, only until the October half term. It seems that the guidance itself, and more importantly individual schools' implementation of the guidelines, are mainly for the schools' benefit and not generally in the interest of the child. We now choose to home educate our children, having looked at a lot of the research around early starting age. We would much prefer good quality play based pre-school provision up to the age of 6/ 7 as in many other countries. There is evidence that this is beneficial in later academic progress. The evidence is there but largely ignored by the government.