Give Me a Child Until they are Seven

Our school age is to dictated by a decision made by Victorian politicians back in the 1860s. It has more to do with economics than education.

As James McEnananey writes: “We should raise the school starting age to seven. Just 12 per cent of countries send their children to school aged four or five, and all of them have links to the British Empire.Evidence shows there is no educational advantage to such an early start, with Britain consistently out-performed by nations where children start school at six or seven.

Sending children to school too early is associated with a variety of social and emotional issues and plays a role in entrenching the gap between rich and poor which plagues our approach to education. Increasing the school starting age and setting up a universal play-based kindergarten system for all children from the age of three would represent a massive, progressive step forward for Nicola Sturgeon. Such a policy would likely attract cross-party support in Parliament and prove she is prepared to pursue radical, evidence-led reforms.”

As the National reports: “Only 12 per cent of countries require children to enter the classroom before the age of six, while 22 per cent set the minimum age at seven. This includes those with the best results such as Finland, where the state supports emotional and educational development through play in a popular kindergarten system which began in the 1970s.” And crucially:

“A growing body of evidence suggests play is crucial to human development on physical, emotional, social and cognitive levels, while both teachers and health professionals continue to raise concerns that youngsters are not getting enough exercise.”

The ideas behind this thinking are explained at Upstart Scotland: a movement to introduce a kindergarten stage for children aged three to seven:

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Comments (10)

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  1. John Page says:

    Thanks, Bella. Very thought provoking………..this film challenges our conditioned thinking.
    John Page

  2. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Brilliant idea, and long overdue.

    Sad to say, I can’t imagine any Scottish Government having the cojones to make such a major change to the education system under devolution. To implement strategic changes that only pay off in the longer term, you need independence, plus a patient build-up of public and cross-party support.

    Still, I hope it happens. Even the most fundamental premise of our current schooling system – forcing 5 year olds to sit quietly at a desk for hours at a time – is brutally stupid. It’s opposed by absolutely everything we’ve learned about the developing human brain and body in the last 150 years.

    1. Why do we need independence to do this? Education is devolved.

      1. Gashty McGonnard says:

        … because this is the sort of change that can easily go the way of the Named Persons scheme, or OBFA: but on a bigger scale. Very easy for a hostile media and opposition parties to generate a faux scandal around it. Also easy for the next government under devolution to reverse it, and claim the last lot stupidly “stole two years of kids’ education”.

        Government in an independent country has far more scope to present its ideas to the public, demonstrate the evidential basis for the change, make any capital investment needed during the transition, etc, etc

        … Scotland already has the powers to implement this, in principle. I just don’t think the political realities of devolution make it easy to do.

        1. Is that true of everything then? Maybe we should do nothing at all until independence?

        2. So in summary we should not suggest any new policy unless it is criticised by other people. That sounds like a movement I want to get on board!

          1. Gashty McGonnard says:

            Crivvens! I said I fully support the proposal in this article. It’s a great suggestion, and we need great suggestions. Suggest away!

            My own suggestion was just that it’s vital to build public approval and cross-party-political support for it in advance, to stop it getting derailed by sleekit electioneering. It’s not impossible under devo, just very politically risky… so let’s reduce the perceived risk to whichever party introduces it.

            Creating radical changes with long-term results – but in a pragmatic way, honest about the short-term tactics required … that’s the kind of movement I’d want to be involved in!

  3. seon says:

    As a parent who has deferred his eldest kid to start school at 5yrs 9mnths instead of a year earlier as was suggested, I hope the govt listen to this and act. Boys in particular are too young for school at 4 or 5 and there’s more to their development than just ability to count or say the alphabet.

    As regards language, 3-7 would be an ideal age for some quality Gaelic immersion.

    Both the Upstart proposals and Gaelic medium one would require diverted resources, new/ retrained staff and possibly new funding but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Hopefully the Unionist parties won’t be churlish and oppose this and hopefully the ‘bold’ Greens won’t abstain.

    1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

      I agree with all of this. Siuthad Nicola!

  4. kate says:

    I have made a film about this as well –
    its time we take care of our little children….

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