Early Education Policy
As parents with children approaching the school age, we have been looking into what are the stipulations for school admissions in the area. As featured on the Cheshire County Council primary education website, “The law states that children must start their education at the beginning of the term after their 5th birthday.
However, in Cheshire, children may start earlier than this.” This is slightly misleading as the ‘may’ is backed up by the Cheshire policy where it is expected that children start the September when they are 4, although there may be the ability to delay attendance until the following January.
Compulsory age of starting school in European countries, 2002
England, Malta, Netherlands, Scotland, Wales
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
Bulgaria, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Sweden
Source: NFER publication / conference paper October 2002
One simple question…WHY? Although it has been proven that starting school too early hinders a child’s ability to develop and learn, not only does the UK request that children start very young, but Cheshire County Council goes one step further and expects children to begin school when they are 4. For parents, like us, whose children turn 4 during the summer months, this means that they will be expected to conform to the learning environment of a school when they are just starting to enjoy their independence and build up their confidence through nursery education. The school environment can be a particularly daunting one, and the difference a year can make to a child’s ability to adapt to this is enormous.
Other countries understand the importance of play in developing a child’s social skills and build a firm foundation for later formal school education. In several different studies and league tables the UK slips lower, with those countries with a higher age for starting school coming top consistently.
The National Education Research Foundation has looked into this closely and comments that “There is no educational rationale for a compulsory school starting age of five or for the practice of admitting four-year olds to infant classes,” said principal researcher Caroline Sharp. “Rather than making sure the child is ready for school, wouldn’t it be better to make school ready for children?” In most European countries there is a strong nursery system where young children can learn in an informal environment through play – such an approach should be considered in the UK, the research says – Caroline sharps comments taken from bbc.co.uk’s online article on Friday, 8 November, 2002 click here to read the full bbc feed
To read more about this research, click here
If we were to follow the models of other countries, it would mean that there would be higher expectations on both the parents and other nursery/pre-school establishments in the early development of our children. Delaying school attendance does mean that some form of nursery education must be made available; this would come at a cost to the parents, as current nursery education does. However, the possibility is that, if this were to be subsidised by the government, it may lead to our children being more socially aware, ready and willing to accept formal education, and thus develop into the kind of young people we want them to be.