Friday, October 16, 2009

Primary review: 'start formal lessons at six' Children should start formal education at the age of six, according to the biggest review of primary schools for 40 years.

Existing lessons in English, maths, science and humanities should be pushed back by 12 months to give children more time to develop, it is claimed.
In a major report, academics said children responded better to a “play-based” curriculum at a young age and insisted it would not hold them back in later life.

The comments come amid fears that children are being pushed too fast at a young age – undermining their social and emotional development.
The recommendation – in the 608-page Cambridge Primary Review – runs directly counter to existing Government policy.
Labour’s own review of primary education published earlier this year suggested all children should start school in the September after their fourth birthday.
But Dame Gillian Pugh, the review’s chairman, said: “If you introduce a child to too formal a curriculum before they are ready for it then you are not taking into account where children are in terms of their learning and their capacity to develop.”
She added that forcing four-year-olds to “sit quietly” often backfired as it turned them off reading at a young age.
“There is no research evidence that shows that early access to formal learning does children any good and quite a lot of good evidence to show that it actually can do some harm,” she said. “Countries where children start more formal learning at six or seven actually overtake us as the children get older.”
The review – carried out over six years – recommended a series of sweeping reforms to the “Victorian” system of education in England.
The existing school starting age was set 140 years ago “to service the demands of industry” and was now outdated, it said.
At the moment, most children start school in nursery or reception classes and are given a play-based education. They then move into formal Key Stage One classes at the age of five.
But the report suggested that the “foundation stage” learning seen in nurseries should be extended into the first full year of school – pushing formal education back by 12 months.
Academics said that if this approach failed to work then ministers should examine the feasibility of raising the school starting age altogether to six.

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