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

Jessica McAulay says:
November 18, 2014 at 08:58 PM
The evidence stated as to why children currently start at 4 is clearly wildly outdated, and was never in the childs best interests. I quote : "the 1988 Education Reform Act gave schools greater control over their budgets, which were linked to the number of children attending, thereby giving an incentive to recruit younger children. At the same
time, there was a reduction in the population of children starting school, which gave schools the capacity to act on this incentive. Regulations on staff ratios and qualifications that applied to nursery classes did not apply to school reception classes. It was therefore in schools’ interests to lower the starting age by creating reception classes."

If we look at academic performance in countries where the school starting age is 6 we don't see a detrimental outcome. Why not let children have access to excellent early years provision for longer and hold off formal learning for another year? The evidence shows that children (especially boys-see Steve Biddulph 'raising boys' book), benefit from developing both physically and emotionally in an active, outdoor classroom until 6. Shutting them into one classroom with 29 other stressed 4 or 5 yr olds for weeks on end, is not helping them become the well rounded life long learners that we want them to be.
Nicole says:
November 18, 2014 at 08:49 PM
Reception should be started at September following the 5th birthday. There is a lot more national and international evidence to suggest that 4 is far too young and has no benefits.
If school was to start later, it would mean more childcare costs for parents. But this is a different issue. It is about the wellbeing of small children. Looking at international csa, about 95% of all countries start at least with 6 years old. However looking to our european neighbours, the majority highly subsidise childcare for everyone not just for low income families.
Claire Cornelius says:
November 18, 2014 at 08:47 PM
Hello. I would like the school starting age to be 7 or at the earliest 6. The reasons for it currently being 5 Are based on reasons from over 100 years ago! Children need to act like children for longer. Pre-schools are great however, pointless if they simply mirror school learning (ie, a pre school shouldn't be as structures as a school). Evidence also suggests that children in this country often have lower levels of attainment overall than other countries where the children started school later.

The mind of a young child is amazing, they learn so much themselves through play and social interaction. I feel that it is dangerous to channel this into structures learning too young.

A childs mental and emotional wellbeing is much more important than academic achievement. I feel we are ignoring this by starting them at school so young and again, this is potentially dangerous to their long term wellbeing and happiness.
Victoria deery says:
November 18, 2014 at 08:33 PM
As a mum of a son who is due to start school a month after is 4th birthday I feel he is still too young and lacks the attention span and maturity to start at this age. I feel it terrible parents have to fight to defer their child and then wish them to start in reception. Children shouldn't miss out on reception just because of the month of their birth I feel parents should have the choice and not have to fight they have to pay for the child care if choosing to defer. The system is unfair and is putting pressure on parent and child to force them to be ready for school, summer born boys don't do well by going to school at 4 I want my son to do well at school from start to finish I want him to have the best start in school I want him to be happy and I just hope I don't have to fight to defer him a year later for reception please change the rules please