Oliver Duff

i Editor's Letter: How soon is too soon to start school?

 

Share

 

Should children really be sent to school aged two? I’m not sure I was ready at five. A picture of me on the
first day, in grey flannels, an oversized bottle-green jumper and with a “bowl-head” haircut shows a lost little soul. Having to wear a uniform and address grown-ups formally instead of by their first name, all that lining up and sitting still, being made to read aloud in front of your peers and the shame of getting it wrong – I remember the terror.

The suggestion from Ofsted’s chair that two-year-olds from poor families need to start school or else they will fall further behind their better-off peers, is well-intentioned. But the elephant in the classroom, which she mentions in passing, is “weak parenting” – people who are unable or unwilling to read to their young children, play outdoor games, spend time talking to them, supervising art projects, teach them to count to 20, and arrange socialising with other kids. This is not just a matter of money: there are plenty of great parents who struggle to pay bills, and neglectful parents with plasma tellies and nice cars in the drive.

A group of prominent British academics said recently that formal schooling should be delayed until age seven because starting at four or five, as happens throughout the UK, was causing “profound damage”. The office of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, responded with even less charm than is customary, accusing the group of making “excuses for not teaching poor children how to add up”.

At the risk of getting splinters from sitting on the fence, there is a middle ground, seen in countries such as (don’t groan) Finland: better nursery education, allowing more learning through play, followed by a later start to formal classes, at seven.

Worryingly, in England, primary schooling may be about to become more formal: the Government is consulting on whether to measure children’s performance through league tables from age four, to track their development. That Whitehall classic: can progress really be progress if it cannot be measured?

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Fabric Inspector

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Fabric Inspector is required to join an awar...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Project Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities & Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Testing Manager

£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

£17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A young person in the UK is now twice as likely to be poor as a pensioner  

Britain is no country for the young – in jobs, income or housing

Ben Chu
LaGuardia Airport: a relic from a different, gentler age  

New York's LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt: It could become the best gateway to America

Simon Calder
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash