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Should School Entry be Delayed Until Six?

22/05/2012

The first day at school for a child is an important milestone for both parents and child. How would the average parent feel if that day was delayed until their child was six instead of four? Some would be overjoyed while others would view the proposal with gloom.

New research from a UK-based education forum has found that bright children are better off not starting school until the age of six. It is thought that formal, classroom style lessons can put some children off learning and make them grow up too soon.

The government has responded by saying that every additional month of education is of benefit. Children in England are expected to be in school by the age of five. This is earlier than children in the rest of Europe and many children actually start school at the age of three or four depending on where their birthday falls within the academic year. Children starting in reception classes are taught using the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) compulsory curriculum.

Dr House from the Westminster Education Forum has conducted research into how children learn when they are very young. His research has led him to believe that too early and emphasis on reading, writing and maths could lead to weaker academic performance in the long term, and even to poorer health. His work points to the fact that while children from very deprived backgrounds do, on balance, gain from early education the vast majority of children do not benefit from an early introduction to education. In fact, Dr House's research reveals that not only is institutional learning at an early age unnecessary but it could cause major developmental harm.

In studies of gifted pupils in the United States it was found that children gained from being allowed to develop at their own natural pace. The research showed that some children would grow up being intellectually unbalanced if their young intellects were not slowed down.

An alternative view is taken by the Department of Education which sees the three Rs as being vital to education and an early grounding in these subjects as essential. The department is satisfied that each extra month of education benefits a child's development and achievement by the age of 11.

A compromise could be made through adding an extra year of play-based learning already featured in most nurseries and reception classes.  This would also bring England into line with most European countries where formal learning starts at the age of six or seven and where results are often higher.


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