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.


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

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64 Responses to School Starting Age

Helen Lewarne says:
November 19, 2014 at 11:28 AM
I am against compulsory pre-schooling. I can see no real definition here, nor do I trust the changing political agendas of governments. See here for sketches of the differing pre-school education and standards across the world.
I believe children benefit by being socialized and, clearly, children at risk should be placed in some sitauation where these skills are developed. . I am very pro a playschool approach where children can spend a lot of time socializing, time in nature (even in cities) since it is proven to be beneficial, as shown here.
It is better to have this kind of environment to make provision for parents who are undecided about home educting or alternative means of schooling, since it provides the children with social experience whilst the parents ponder difficult decisions.

We need to incorporate ideas from different backgrounds, as in Steiner/Waldorf, more common in Germany. See here: or the Montessori approach:

It is wrong to put pressure on young children to conform to standards and it is unhelpful to train pre-school teachers in giving overly-structured programmes. In that scenario, children become tired of education too young. I remember my own children coming home, white-faced and exhausted, despite regular, nutritious meals and a regular bedtime. It was too much, too soon. I do not recommend that we wear out a generation in pushing strucvture upon the young, but embrace the fluidity of their minds until the age of 6 or 7. Children who want to read generally will. Numbers, we know, can be presented in many different ways and can be introduced in woods, parks and gardens as much as within confined classrooms. In the end, we get children who love learning.

It is also important to have the same or very similar, opportunities for all children, not just for the ones who can pay. To achieve this, we need investment. Are governments willing to make the effort?
Sue Poxon says:
November 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Some children are ready for school at 4, some clearly are less so.
What is more important than the age, is what school offers. I have no problem with an early start age if the school day is geared to the needs of young children. Children from 4 to 6, and even older, need lots of learning experiences: painting, construction toys, sand & water play, playdough, role play, large climbing frames etc etc.
What they do NOT need is formal teaching for 5 hours a day, sitting at desks and being force-fed spellings etc. This approach is so unsuited to the abilities and interests of young children that it is only likely to bore them and make them resistant to learning. Young children are not machines - we need to excite their curiosity and interest and learning will follow.
Some formal learning does need to be introduced, but as and when they are ready and for limited time periods.
Always, always, always school should be interesting and stimulating, extending and building upon skills and experiences. Too much formality, too young just blunts their growing minds and school becomes a chore to be avoided. Is that really what we want?
Sarah Holmes says:
November 19, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Firstly, the document is incorrect. Children aged 5 are not legally required to attend school. It is required that they are receiving a full time education, but the law states that this does not need to happen within a formal school institution. Attendance at school is only compulsory if enrolled with a school. It is not compulsory to enroll.

Lower school age is detrimental to outcomes and we can see proof of this by comparing the literacy and numeracy results of our 16 years olds with that of 16 year olds from countries with later school ages. Full time school and pressure to meet targets too early seems to be burning out our children and giving them a negative experience of education and learning. In countries with later school starting ages the children MAY attend preschool if it is proving beneficial to the individual child, however this is usually only for 2 or 3 half days a week and can be adjusted by the parents to give the individual child a gentle introduction to education which leads to positive associations with school and learning.

Although the document states that part time can be requested by parents if the child is under 5, in practice this is usually either refused by schools, or else facilitated in such a way as to strongly discourage uptake.
A Maclaurin says:
November 19, 2014 at 10:06 AM
My daughter is currently 4yrs old (July birth). She's attending primary school in a reception class full time. While she loves spending time with her class mates she is exhausted. I keep her at home as much as I can however she is already aware that there is some pressure to learn her phonics and numbers and she is sent home with books and phonics to learn. I allow her to progress at her own pace and I am careful not to place any pressure on her to achieve however I am constantly aware that there is an expectation placed on her by the education system-she is observed, tested and compared to an 'average' on every step of her learning journey. I think there is certainly an argument to have a little one in a fun, informal situation with other children and adults but I consider the current compulsory school starting age of 5 to be too young. I have seriously considered home schooling in order to avoid the inevitable testing and coaching that will happen once she goes in to year one. A school starting age of 6 would be far more sensible - every child is unique and different and placing pressure to be 'up to a certain standard' by a particular point places undue pressure on a young mind still deciding who they are-if they are not learning at an average rate (based on the all pervasive comparisons that go on in education) they are effectively being taught they are 'wrong' or 'not good enough' from a very young age. Starting school aged 6 gives each child a longer period of time to become settled in who they are and gives space for them to develop uniquely and at their own pace.
Hannah Newman Evans says:
November 19, 2014 at 08:35 AM
I have to points of issue with the current memorandum.
The first is that, we obviously force children to start school to early in comparison with other countries. The choice should be available to defer until at least the term after a child's 6th birthday, or even allow part time attendance til this point. Young children often aren't equipped to deal with full time lessons at such a young age.
Also, stating that children's outcomes are better when they attend preschool, doesn't take in to account the external factors at home, which too may be influencing outcomes.
Before we make policies on this basis, it might be wise to see if children with siblings, stay at home parents, or other family factors fair better or worse.
I personally feel this statement, assumes the worst possible home life and accounts to combat it as so. My child is one, does not attend preschool, but spends time everyday socialising with other children, reading books, and participating in activity which helps strengthen cognitive development for future learning.
I don't believe he needs to attend preschool to fulfil his future learning potential.
Elanor Jemison says:
November 19, 2014 at 08:26 AM
I think school starting age should be 6-7 depending on when born.
Evidence of this starting age can been seen in Europe, where starting age is later, and yet the children do better, all round. I have seen this in my own family when my eldest was home educated until 7, when he went to school he jumped above his peers. He is still currently working at 2 years above his level. He has a love for education, because he wanted to go to school at 7. He also enjoyed his home education. Kindergarten style nursery should be available until then.
Alice Roberts says:
November 18, 2014 at 09:42 PM
While I agree that the CSA should be 5 years in England, the fact that the summer born children are starting school (whether part time or full time) at just over 4 years old fills me with horror!!! These summer borns are babies!!! They should NOT be in school yet. They should NOT have to compete with classmates who may be a full 12 months older than them. They need time to develop socially, emotionally and academically. The fact that in some European countries, children are just starting pre-school when our children are expected to be in Primary School makes me think that we sadly have it all wrong.
jenny says:
November 18, 2014 at 09:16 PM
Children dont do better starting school early. i agree that they should attend preschool and learn through play, learn social interaction etc, but summer borns should have the option of starting RECEPTION class after their 5th birthday. here is some evidence to suggest that summer borns are effected right through to GCSEs
The current admissions code should give parents the choice to start school age 5 (reception) and not forced to school as young as age 4 (some only days after turning 4) thats a whole quarter of their life younger than a 5 yr old. The countries that allow children to start later do just as well socially/academically if not better than England
Kate pierart says:
November 18, 2014 at 09:10 PM
school starting age in the country is in reality 4 unless your birthday is on 1 September. This is because most LEAs "threaten" any parents who wish to exercise their legal right to start their child at CSA in reception that there will be no spaces in Y1. In addition reception is a key building block year for school which any parent would be mad to miss for their child.

This is why my son started school at 4 years and 4 days old. He is now seen as behind in his writing targets and needs extra support despite being a bright child. He is not behind, he is simply young in his year and his motor skills are not fully developed.

There is a huge host of evidence as to why formal education such as that in this country does not benefit children any more than those starting formal education later. In fact it may actively harm them.

The whole education system is geared towards what is easy for the LEAs, the schools, the government (get mums working again to pay tax) and no consideration is given to the child or the wishes of the parents who know their child best. A small change to allow children whose parents feel they would benefit with an extra year at home or in a nursery play setting is already available in many countries including Scotland. It is about time the DoE listened to the research from experts rather than focussing what is easy for them.
Mrs M Green says:
November 18, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Most developed countries have a compulsory starting age of 6 or 7, that's when literacy and numeracy begins. Most of these countries are top of the OECD table. Child and childhood experts believe, from evidence, that children develop about every 6, 7, years and that before they are 6, or ready, many children are not prepared to start reading and writing. There are many experts that agree on this, quite a few head the "too much, too young" movement and are eager to talk and share with the authorities. Some support for a late literacy and numeracy age is found with the Cambridge study
The UK has ranked 20th on the OECD and ministers have recently verbalised their astonishment about half of the 5 years olds in school who could not hold a pen... Can we really blame poverty for that?? Is half of the UK population in such depravation? Are really half of all UK parents really that neglectful?? Please, listen to the evidence, please preserve childhood, preserve our future and the future of our country.