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Children in England start school too young.

(97 Posts)
Kendodd Mon 22-Jul-13 12:04:13

Or so I think at least.

And not just me

Why won't the government raise the school starting age? Research seems to say it would benefit children, and it certainly doesn't seem to do children in other countries any harm. Instead they want to introduce testing for five year olds 'so we can compete with Finland (where they enter school at seven, after one year of pre-school)and China' They claim to be skint, they could just rename reception and Y1 'pre-school' make it voluntary, pre-school teachers are cheap, primary school teachers are expensive, so a whole heap of money is saved as well.

ItsQuiteHardtocomeupwithaname Mon 22-Jul-13 12:19:44

If children start school later , it means the quality of schooling will affected negatively, if your suggestion of using pre school teachers were to be used. Parents who can not afford child care will have to have their children at home for longer, therefore not being in work. Those children who have poor home lives will be further behind.

I agree that testing 5 year olds is ridiculous, but starting pre school / nursery school at 3 and school at 4 can be positive for many children. If you don't want your child to start, then you can homeschool, start later.

Where's your research?

gintastic Mon 22-Jul-13 12:28:54

Preschool may be cheaper, but they rely heavily on volunteers. The preschool in my village is headed by an EYP, who is degree qualified, but it's run by a committee. Which is whichever parents could be bothered to turn up to the AGM. I am chair and spend many hours a week (free) making sure it's being run properly. If it went to age 6/7 I certainly would refuse to do it.

Where are you going to find enough people willing to give up that amount of time year after year after year to keep preschools running at the low cost they are now? Especially as demand will rise... We offer 28 spaces per session to cover ages 2,3 and 4. The local primary school has 30 children in YR and Y1. Obviously it is impossible to accommodate all or even most of them in the preschool.

I don't agree with tests for 5yo, but I don't think taking them out of school is the answer either.

noramum Mon 22-Jul-13 12:57:17

I am from Germany and kindergarten there has properly trained teacher, it is a company or at least a charity with a proper business concept and in its own building, not a church hall or similar.

Children attend it normally from the age of 3 (if the mother stays at home) for 5 days a week, 8am-12 or 1pm. The last year before school, depending on the area, they have a pre-school class where children then stay over lunch and attend until 2 or 3pm.

When both parents work it is often until 4 or 6pm.

It is not fully free, the fee is normally depending on the parents income and the last year is partly free.

Very different from an English pre-school I experienced for my daughter. DD attended a full day nursery and I could see the difference between her and the children who "just" attended the 15hr free funded pre-school. These children varied a lot and very often it was because the parents did a lot at home with them in addition. You can't tell me that in 3 hours a day, including snack time and free play a lot of school preparation can be done.

Kendodd Mon 22-Jul-13 13:29:00

I think the pre-school system in the UK is very flawed in it's charity based/volunteer running, I am not suggesting this model is extended. The pre-school in my village is located at and run by the primary school, this is the model I would suggest, offering the same free hours as rec and Y1.

Pyrrah Mon 22-Jul-13 14:22:57

My DD was more than ready for primary school nursery at 3.5 years.

They don't really do much more than play and learn social skills anyway.

The idea of not sending her to school in September would fill me with horror. I think some kind of flexibility for parents who would rather their children stay at home longer would be nice but can't see how it would work in practice. You'd also get a situation where some areas would have far better systems than others - my borough has free full-time school nursery places, but it's the exception not the rule.

You would also find an even greater gap between children from deprived backgrounds and others.

If you are a SAHM then it is also far easier - working parents have a hard time affording full-time childcare for the early years as it is. Okay, school isn't childcare - but it is a place that your children are during the day that doesn't cost anything.

When I look at what my friends' children in other countries are doing, it doesn't seem that there is a lot of difference between here and there - they just don't call it school.

ilovesunflowers Mon 22-Jul-13 14:40:09

We are different from other counties though aren't we? You only have to walk down most high streets to see the distinct lack of good parenting. I travel quite a lot and the difference is very apparent. I know this is very judgemental but I speak as I see. I don't think it applies to most of the people on MN as you obviously care a lot about your children to come on a parenting site.

As a teacher I would be seriously worried if some of my children had started school much later. I feel like I'm constantly paying catch up for the crap unbringing some of the poor little things have had. Granted I have worked in schools in particularly challenging areas though.

YoniBottsBumgina Mon 22-Jul-13 14:47:31

I disagree, I think the school system in the UK is good in that the first year is very play-based. It's a good introduction to school with little pressure. This is how it is in the small community primary that my DS attends nursery at anyway. There is no homework until year 2 and even then it is in the form of projects which the children can choose parts of and not pages of written work etc.

Of course there are flaws, as there are in every system but I think it is getting better and should not be tampered with too much. One thing I'm not keen on is teachers having to do things on a specific schedule - phonics for example. My friend is a primary school teacher and she says there is no point moving on to another sound group (whatever it is called) until the class have mastered one, but because of the speed it has to be covered she ends up moving on faster than she would like. I think things like that are a shame.

I'm not against assessment for 5 year olds as long as they are unaware. I don't like the idea of competitive testing at any age.

cory Mon 22-Jul-13 16:37:08

But where would we get pre-schools of the Scandinavian model? With taxpayers willing to pay for highly trained and well regarded staff? With staff that are so well trained in woodwork and pottery and sewing that they would provide practical work for 6yos that would seem worth while for even the very clever ones? With hours spent out of doors in all weathers so that small people can run off energy? With an attitude towards health and safety that would allow pre-school staff to take children out on public transport and allow them to prepare their own lunch (sharp knives for 4yos) without 500 health and safety forms?

Those Finnish children who do so well when entering school at 6 are probably building on experience garnered by helping their parents to fish and bake bread and build the family sauna.

The main difference I saw between dc's infants school here in the UK and dn's preschool in Sweden was that the things dn's produced invariably worked: they were candlesticks you could put a candle in and buns you could eat. I don't think dc ever produced anything usable before they got to secondary. No wonder any time not spent on the three R's seemed less productive. With properly trained staff it might have been different.

mam29 Mon 22-Jul-13 18:29:32

dont see why we cant follow scottsh system.

but in uk we have high levels of teen mums and dysfunctonal famles so guess school benefits them.

Also chld care s far too inflexible and expensive so nursery shut whole week over xmas when retail manager not good.

Other countries heaviliy subsise their early years.

due to lack school places im happy to at until mine are 6/7 but im sahm now so would work for me appreciate wouldent work for all.

do think ks1 could be more fun and more play as after gentle reception year everyone goes on about year 1 and 2 full on varies on how schools do it.

dd1s school 1-badly school 2 much better

AbbyR1973 Mon 22-Jul-13 18:56:36

Actually I think it would have been awful for DS's if they hadn't be able to start something more formal. DS1 could read fairly well a full year before he started school and his nursery (private, not charity pre-school affair) simply said he shouldn't be reading yet he should wait for school. He was more than ready to move on. Similarly DS2 is just 4 and very ready to start school, again self-taught reader. He has completely outgrown nursery and is beginning to affect his behaviour. I guess it wouldn't be too bad if SAHM, fairly educated as likely to do things with children anyway but as a full time working mum you depend on the system much more. DS1 has absolutely blossomed in his reception year but again is ready to move on to something more formal again in year 1.
Actually most highly rated educational systems (other than Finland) don't start later. Asian education systems expect more from the start. I suspect however that the difference is not down to when you start school, but more down to societal attitudes to education and work ethic. I think parents have more of a role to play than government legislation.

keepsmiling12345 Mon 22-Jul-13 22:58:02

mam29 interestng tht you confidently assert we should follow the scottish system. Can you provide evidence for your assertion that "in UK we have high levels of teen mums and dysfunctional families" versus Scotland which a/ is in UK last time I looked and b/ may have similar issues to the rest of UK?

mam29 Tue 23-Jul-13 02:51:30

meant starting at 5 not 4 bu scottish sytem

The latter was a different remark and wasent sayng Englands worse than Scotland was refering to the whole of united kingdom I have n bias im welsh living in england lts teen pregancies and rural poverty in small town I grew up in.

I love sunflowers was saying that uk culturally different in terms in terms o behavoiur. I dont think being poor automatically makes bad parent see plenty rich crap ones.

But things like lack of family supprt
father buggering off, one boyfreind after another dont make things easier for child.

I heard about kids starting r in nappies, unable to use knife an fork.

poor literacy of parents

such low income s free school meals only decent food they get.

Kendodd Tue 23-Jul-13 10:42:35

Where's your research?

Please see the link in the op. I haven't linked to any document in particular just typed in the open question "study into best age to start school" just about every result came back that four is too young.

As a teacher I would be seriously worried if some of my children had started school much later. I feel like I'm constantly paying catch up for the crap unbringing some of the poor little things have had.

Some research suggests that starting disadvantaged children young actually widens the gap, not closes it. The more advantaged children will have already mastered some social skills leaving them more free to to take up the 3Rs while their less advantaged (or less mature) class mates focus on social and life skills, so falling behind academic. Sorry I can't find the link to this, I'll keep looking.

Some research shows that starting school young (as we do in England) ever harms the brightest of children.

IMO play is vitality important for children, and in this country they just don't get enough of it. If we did change rec and Y1 into pre-school, this would free up a lot of children's time for playing, which again IMO, is what they really need to be doing.

DeWe Tue 23-Jul-13 10:48:07

But children are different. So some children do start too young. Some children are ready earlier.
My reckoning is:
Dd1 was about right. Academically she could have started the year before, socially she needed that extra year.
Dd2 would have been better academically and socially to start the year before.
Ds was too early. Academically he was up to it, but not ready for more formal learning.

But if you allow people to choose they don't necessarily choose for the right reasons. Of the people I've heard complaining that they were too young to start, a lot by the end of the year are saying "they've learnt so much, I'm glad they started".
And I've much more often heard parents complaining that their child is ready to go early-even when it's clear they're not. So I don't think parents choosing would work.

I have a friend in an area of the US where there is a lot of choice in theory. They can start any time after their 4th birthday and have to be in school the term after they're 7yo.

What has actually happened is that parents want their boys to be sporty. The older you are (at that age) the better you look sports wise. So they leave their boys for as long as possible, so most (in my friend's dd's year all except one) boys start as close to 7yo (the age they must start) as possible.
Otoh the girls parents want their dd to be seen as advanced, so start them asap. So the girls are starting at just gone 4yo.
Well you can see the issues here. Children whose parents send them not at those times often have social problems and find it very difficult. So although, in theory, they have flexibility, in practice, it's not as flexible as it looks.

mam29 Tue 23-Jul-13 11:06:10

I think Dewe raises valid point

flexibility s every childs different.

hubby keeps saying middle child be ready this year shes sept birthday hes possibly right.

Eldest culd have done with waiting althugh she was 4.5
if year 1 was same as recepton then that wuld have been good

then year 1 start when they suppost t start year 2 inline with the states.

Is kindergarten same as reception and do more than one year in kindergarten?

youngest definatly probably do with waiting.

gingercat12 Tue 23-Jul-13 13:03:25

I agree with OP. Starting at the age of 6 and born in August (so the youngest in the class), even year 1 was plain sailing for me in continental Europe. You are just so ready, and soak everything up so easily. You can concentrate well, your fine motor skills are good. It just takes a lot less effort to learn the exact same thing you spend months doing in reception.

A 4-year-old boy is just too little for school no matter how play-based it is.

We also had one compulsory year in kindergaten, but in my time it was just normal kindergarten and the only real expectation was to socialise with other kids.

But I never thought English kids start school so early for academic reasons. I thought it was mainly free child care (well, at least in the state schools).

Now having a big boy starting Y1 in September here in England, this system has grown on me.

We only ever used private nurseries, so I do not know about volunteer-based nurseries.

noramum Tue 23-Jul-13 13:24:48

I see an issue that children will always be better if the parents are behind the education, it doesn't matter if the child is at pre-school or in a formal Reception in a primary school. They can live in areas with good school, they can help at home or choose fee paying school/better nurseries to advance the child further.

I think it doesn't matter when a child starts, it matters what the school or the setting where the child is, can offer. And as long as you have huge differences in pre-school and early primary school settings the gap will always be there. Is it a wonder that state schools have to rely heavily on parents to do fundraising to equip an IT suite or upgrade the library?

You can't compare the pre-schools here with any pre-school setting in all these better European countries. They work totally different and the child is therefore different when starting primary school. It would be interesting to know if pre-school is mandatory in Finland or, if not, the attendance ratio is compared to the UK.

What people like Michael Gove can't understand is also that you can't compare the mental abilities of a 4-5 year old with a 6-7 year old. Even things like fine motor skills are a world apart. It is like comparing apples and pears and wondering why it never fits.

If Gove and cronies want the UK children to be better than the rest of the world than they need to take the whole concept into account and see not just the points they like but how the structure works in other countries. As far as I know there is currently no "English special brain" compared to my poor German child.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Tue 23-Jul-13 13:37:10

I think it's very difficult to decide tbh. Dd1 would have gone even more crazy if she had not been able to go to school. She was ready the year before as it was. I do understand that some kids just aren't ready and that they would be better off being home a bit longer. But then I think with the way nurseries and Pre school works, that the gaps would be too huge if they started any later.

It would be nice if there was more flexibility but then you would end up with 3/5 year olds in same class as 6/7 year olds and finding a middle ground would be impossible.

duchesse Tue 23-Jul-13 13:52:19

Poor little DD3, who is 3, will be starting school in September. Her birthday is August 27th. We are still in a quandary about which type of school to choose for her. Not wanting to start a debate about the pros and cons, but one is a lot more more relaxed about reading and writing and concentrates on social skills in the first two years. In the other school she will learn to read and write from the beginnning. This is a child who still needs an afternoon nap a couple of times a week...

cory Tue 23-Jul-13 18:04:07

This thing about bright children needing to start school by 4 because they are bored seems a very British concern to me. Never heard a Swedish parent worry about this.

I suspect this is the difference between a culture where practical skills are equally valued and exciting to children and a culture where they are not. Scandinavian children, whether they stay at home or attend nursery, will typically have a good grounding in cookery, baking, crafts, outdoor survival skills and basic DIY before they start school at 6. Many of those skills are acquired at nursery (where children would normally help to prepared their own meals). At home, they are likely to be encouraged to join in any cooking or DIY activities going on.

And not only are these skills all available: they are all valued by the culture they live in. There is no concept that the skills worth having can only be taught by educated or middle class parents/carers: the assumption is that all adults have valuable skills to pass on. Nor is there any concept that these skills are somehow below bright children and inadequate for engaging their interest. The child doesn't know he is too bright to varnish the boat or fry the meatballs because nobody tells him. I was proud when I left school with the prize for the best French student of the year. But no prouder than the day when I was first entrusted with the job of gutting the plaice.

By the time my nieces and nephews started school at 6, they already knew how to bake a cake unsupervised, how to use a real hammer and saw, how to tell edible plants and leaves in the vicinity from non-edible, how to cook a stir fry, how to make pottery items that could actually be used for something. And if they were bright and wanted to read, they could learn, as some of them did. But the idea that worksheets were the only thing that stood between them and boredoom would have seemed totally laughable.

<wonders idly if the children of Amazonian tribes are desperately unhappy and understimulated because they do not get to do worksheets>

duchesse Tue 23-Jul-13 18:08:01

<stands and applauds Cory>

<quietly makes up mind about DD3>

mrz Tue 23-Jul-13 18:37:57

you shouldn't find worksheets in English EY settings either

AbbyR1973 Tue 23-Jul-13 18:49:42

Cory the thing is we don't live in Sweden and most people don't live an aspirational outdoor lifestyle with access to boats to varnish etc on tap. Children that outgrow nurseries do get a bit bored- its not just the reading and writing but they aren't doing a lot of the other things you mention and are, it seems to me, aimed at the average 3 year old. If a child comes along that's a bit different problems can occur. I would like to see the comparative statistics on SAH parenting on Scandinavia. Parents could do more of this stuffif they could spend more time with their children but some people don't have that choice. Then there is the group of parents who do not have the where-with-all to organise this stuff and who currently park their kids in front of the TV babysitter. I fail to see how staying at home longer is by itself going to change what you hear from teachers- that a number of children are entering school without even very basic skills like knowing their own name.
I DO think the activities you suggest are very broadening and wonderful things for children to be engaged with but it doesn't mean that they can't/ shouldn't be allowed to move on if they are ready to.
Reception as far as I've seen this year HAS been almost if not entirely play based. Just in the last term they have done some writing work, stories etc in short bursts, preparing them gently for year 1. The play is managed in a different way to nursery though such that my very bright DS has been able to thrive.

And somebody made the comment that "4 year old boys just aren't ready for reception no matter how play based it is." confusedconfusedconfused Please can we just give boys a break now. DS1 has thrived and DS2 is a mature and bright little chap who just can't wait to get started. He is no different in that respect than any girls.

rosesandcream Tue 23-Jul-13 18:54:40

IMO they do start too early. I personally hate it, I feel children would benefit from being just kids for longer. Enjoy their freedom from academic responsibilities for longer. 6, 7, or 8 is a lot more appropriate age to start school. However in the UK there is no affordable childcare provisions that could be offered to all parents, who wish to return to work, so that's the problem. The examples of other countries where kids do start formal education a lot later does show they do catch up very quick and then leap ahead as well. They also do tend to have longer summer holidays without detrimental effects in the quality of end results. So draw the conclusion. UK primary education is lacking behind.

On top of it lack of textbooks at schools, so you cannot follow up what is learned on daily basis and see where your child needs support, what to repeat with him.
I cannot not get my hand around with all the photocopies of some of the material they get which to me seems like a pile of rubbish not source of knowledge.

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