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

Sarah Churchill says:
November 20, 2014 at 11:12 AM
I have amended my post as it was impossible to read it all before I sent it and there were mistakes I wanted to rectify:
Many parents who wish to defer their children entering Reception class find that the school then tells them a place can't be guaranteed the following year, heads and teachers also pressure parents by making them feel their child will be behind if they defer their place.
I however kept my son out of school until the last term of year 3, he was 8 when we started school. He was "behind" his class in numeracy and literacy but his new class teacher had to admit he had great general knowledge and social maturity. He then proceeded to "catch up " very quickly and by year 5 was on a par with his peers. This was without us doing any extra work but following the homework and reading guidelines of the school. This is anecdotal evidence. But it suggests that children will pick up reading and writing very quickly when they are intellectually ready. A lot of reception and year 1 is about learning the hidden curriculum and integrating children into the "School day". I work as a TA with Reception in a state primary school. I see so many children who aren't ready and are quickly labelled as "difficult" because they can not sit still for long periods of time. In fact it is the lack of physical movement during the school day which I worry about most. Children of this age should be learning through physical play and movement. So much of their time is sedentary. So much of what they are learning is abstract, and I have realised that the curriculum is on repeat for most of primary, therefore would it not be better to teach abstract ideas when the child is ready to take it in. For instance the idea of telling the time, this is done throughout primary, but it is not until about year 4/5 that children start to get it, I don't think its because some drip drip effect has been at work, it is because they are ready at that age to understand abstract ideas such as learning to tell the time. Therefore so much teaching is a waste of time before that age. If children must be in care for their early years due to economics (parents working) - would it not be wiser to look at the Forest Schools or Steiner approach to early years. That way the children would learn skills that prepare them for future abstract learning, I am always shocked to see how little hand eye skills such as using scissors the Reception children have. The Kindergarten phase of Steiner Education focusses on building the children's hand eye coordination and their physical motor skills so that they are ready for the challenge of learning to write and read and take on abstract ideas around the age of 7/8
Sam Vanstone Nunn says:
November 20, 2014 at 10:46 AM
I strongly support a raising of the compulsory school age. I'd like the UK to fall in line with those countries that have an age 7 compulsory school age. I would support non-compulsory pre-school from the age of 4 or 5 to 7 so that families that need the provision could benefit.
Marie Nixon says:
November 20, 2014 at 10:41 AM
My son was born in August and consequently is almost a year older than many in his class, so I feel like he's always playing catch up. I'm having to do extra at home plus many are taken out of class for 'extra sessions' during assembly time. Currently at five years old, for homework he gets daily reading, one spelling test a week, word wallets to learn, 2 different sets of flashcards to memorise and sometimes maths homework and well. It's far too much and leaves very little time for play which is often the cause of tears.

Back to the point, I was frustrated not to have the choice of delaying his starting school just a few weeks after his 4th birthday. Especially with his birthday being so close to the start of the school year, I've always felt that I should have had the choice.
Grace Ball says:
November 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM
My children struggled with being left at school all day (emotionally not educationally) until they were almost 8, when they suddenly grew naturally more independent and self caring. Their immune system was so much stronger by then so they were well more of the time. Schools are too busy to do the 'caring' that young children need - they need their parents / guardians who are the only one's who truly have their needs at heart. Young children find school a scary place and too much is expected of them. 7-8 is the natural age a child is ready to venture out and if they have had careful nurturing at home until that age they are much more resilient and ready for challenge. Parents need financial and social support to be able to have a 'stay at home' mum or dad without being penalised or degraded for it.
Veena Rabadia says:
November 20, 2014 at 10:10 AM
children should be starting school around 6-7 years old and before this age should be exploring through creative play and free to move around in natural outdoor spaces with sensory play. I do not agree that children who attend pre school have an advantage than those who don't like the report states I know children who are at home with parents who are articulate, imaginative, creative and a thirst for curiosity as they are allowed to explore what interests them instead of a teacher going through the motions of teaching just to hit targets. I'm so pleased my daughter attends a Montessori school as is not sat at tables is free to move around and learn through play. It's such a shame that this is not the norm. Instead we are creating unhappy children that are exhausted from schooling at such a young age, they have so many years in institutions ahead of them that being children and play should be the priority.
Jo Twyman says:
November 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Children start formal learning too young. Delaying the start of formal learning until children are developmentally ready produces better educational outcomes and happier children. Some children are ready emotionally for schools but many struggle, especially younger ones. There should be greater flexibility in starting age, whether a child needs a full time place and when in year one or two play based learning transitions to teacher led learning.
Maria says:
November 20, 2014 at 06:49 AM
It's not to do with school starting age necessarily, it's to do with schools and teachers understanding child development, understanding play and acknowledging the value of what goes on in early years. Frankly, MPs and officers in the DfE have heaps to learn too - think about the message that is sent by the fact EY teacher status is not equivalent to QTS. We need to protect the nature of early years teaching. We need to extend it - either through year 1 or into year 2. Look in any good EY class and you'll see independent, engaged, motivated and busy children. How long does this last in a typical primary school? Things change because of the pressures of SATS and Ofsted. Teaching becomes based in what's good for ofsted rather than what's good for children. I think the proposed "baseline" for reception and its focus on maths and literacy is a threat to the integrity of the EYFS in reception class. Both because it creates a barrier between nursery and reception in EYFS units and because it disregards the holistic nature of teaching, learning and thinking in early years.
Georgina Hammond says:
November 20, 2014 at 04:46 AM
i believe children are forced into education many years before they should be, this government is trying to take away parental responsibility and also individuality in children. We should encourage parents to be parents and children to be children taking off the pressure and making a happier society that becomes eager to learn in a happier environment.
Laura Clatworthy says:
November 20, 2014 at 02:19 AM
The Evidence Check memorandum talks of the compulsory age for school attendance across Europe but then muddies the waters when it admits that a high proportion of children attend early-years education providors from as early as 3 years anyway. It is not clear from yhe document if this was taken into account or how it affected the evidence.
I believe strongly that there is a good argument and existing research to show that learning at home with a oarent or guardian until a later age (6 or 7) is incredibly benificial when appropriate / achievable for that particular family. 5 is too young to force children into full time education if they and their family don't want it or are not ready. You should be allowed to send your child to a reduced amount of sessions until a much later age. Full days, 5 days a week is too much. The compulsory school age should be raised, definitely not lowered!
Ruth Woodcraft says:
November 19, 2014 at 11:16 PM
1) the best place for young children is with their parent, most likely mother, and the state should be encouraging this, not providing a poor substitute for a parent in school / nursery where young children experience stress and sadness as they need a primary care giver, not just some person who is responsible for many other children all at once
2) the state needs to stop reinforcing the view that if one has a job in childcare one is important and conversely, that if one stays home with one's child one is feckless and unproductive and not adding to society. This is reinforced through the tax breaks given to working parents regarding child care arrangements, the government's constant comments about the 'working family', and the drive to get mothers back to work (and have gender balance in every roll in life) as if the mothers are on some kind of extended holiday
3) as many parents require support being with the child as it is a hugely demanding job, (yes job) then the state should support organisations that help to train parents into raising their children to be well adjusted and ready for education when the child is older
4) recognise that teaching children formally at a very young age just doesn't work for the vast majority of children. Doing more earlier just discourages many children. I have seen 5 year olds saying they are "stupid" as the drive to achieve in a school has made them feel a failure.
Therefore, the state needs to do everything it can to produce well balanced children by keeping them with their parent for as long as possible and keep formal teaching to much later for the majority of children. Teachers are clever enough to 'stretch' those who are ready to start formal learning. They are also clever enough to allow more play based learning to those who need that bit extra time. Let's not ruin childhood by lowering the school age, let's extend learning by giving children the time to grow with someone who loves them more than the state does for much longer.