A report by the Cambridge Primary Review, subject of an article in today's Times newspaper, recommends that children should not start formal schooling until they are 6. In fact, the report says, trying to teach literacy and numeracy at such an early age is "counterproductive." Ed Balls the Schools Secretary, however, believes that this would be a 'backward step' and that "it is vital to get children playing and learning from an early age." (What does he think they do when they are not at school? How does he explain the fact that children learn countless things before they ever attend school, like walking, talking, the names of farm animals and dinosaurs to mention just a few?) Despite starting school at least one year earlier, English school children aged 10 show no real advantage over their European counterparts and even score lower on their reading.
So, this suggestion has not been supported by the Government of the Opposition. Is there another agenda here? Perhaps an economic one: the earlier children are in school, the sooner their parents are back into full-time work or the cheaper the child-care for those who already are? While I am sure that these financial pressures are very real for many families, it does not seem a good argument for early full-time education. It would be good to look at our schooling paradigms with fresh eyes and to see the needs of the children, their social, emotional and educational needs, put first. The rest, surely, should be worked around that?