The story appears on

Page A11

October 17, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » World

Age 5 too young to start school: review

CHILDREN should delay the start of formal schooling to the age of six, a year later than at present, the largest review of primary education in England for 40 years recommended yesterday.

The 608-page Cambridge University study said introducing children at the age of five into the constraint and discipline of a classroom -- a throwback to Victorian days -- provided little benefit and could even be harmful.

"They are not going to learn to read, write and add up if you have alienated children by the age of four and five," said Gillian Pugh, chairwoman of the Cambridge Primary Review's advisory committee.

"That's the stage at which we are tuning children into learning ... If they are already failing by the time they are five, then it's going to be quite difficult to get them back into the system again," she added.

Although the authors of the report stopped short of recommending a rise in the starting age of compulsory schooling from five, they called for an "open debate" on the issue.

They said children up to the age of six should instead be given the more informal, play-based education typically found in nurseries.

It said England's tradition of starting school at five, shared in Europe only by Wales, Scotland and the Netherlands, dated from the requirements of Victorian factory owners in the 1870 Elementary Education Act.

"Five was picked not for education or child-development reasons, but in an attempt to service the demands of industry ... Clearly the earlier children started, the sooner they would finish."

Schooling starts at the age of six in 20 out of 34 European countries, with eight nations, including Sweden, waiting until children are seven.

The Cambridge review, based on three years' research and 31 interim reports, found that primary schools in England were "in good heart and in general doing a good job."

But it found that more than a decade of central policy initiatives under three successive Labour governments had created a "state theory of learning."

The study called for ministers to step back from trying to control classrooms from Whitehall.

The study called for a review of the way primary schools are staffed, saying that the model of having a generalist teacher in charge of each class was another hangover from the Victorian era when it was seen as the cheapest way of instructing children.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend