Is it nutty to believe that five-year-olds can reason and analyse?

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"I'm looked on as a bit of a nutcase," says David Higgins, headteacher of Chase Community School in Enfield, Middlesex, and in his spare time the driving force behind a nursery and enrichment programme for 5- to 12-year-olds attached to the school.

"Two colleagues and I went to a school in Moscow that was using accelerated methods. Their 14-year-olds had the emotional and intellectual maturity of our sixth-formers. We actually taught them physics and drama and took them for an assembly - all in English.

"Unfortunately, our efforts here so far have to be private and fee-paying and I spend a lot of time trying to raise funds and win support. The enrichment centre children are self-selecting but we are taking children who have been failing at school, offering them creative arts, languages, logic, investigative activities and computer work, and are seeing them make enormous progress. Raising IQ scores by 30 points I think is an entirely reasonable target."

The nursery offers all the usual activities but also includes three or four sessions a day when children work in small groups away from distractions with a teacher. The sessions cover literature, maths, science, logic and sensory skills and are designed to develop children's thinking, reasoning and analytical abilities.

"The aim is to develop children's learning processes rather than accelerating their literacy or numeracy skills, which will follow in primary school," Mr Higgins says. "People have to stop thinking that this sort of project is elitist and realise it affects everyone. But it needs a change in attitude and funding to allow teachers more time to teach, to educate parents, to raise children's self-esteem so that you don't have discipline problems, and to provide multimedia technology for everyone."