Is five too young to start primary school?

October 16, 2009

schoolThe largest review of primary schooling in England for 40 years has said children at five are too young to start formal education and that six would be a more suitable age.

The Cambridge University study says play-based learning should go on for another year. Making children start school so young was a throwback to the Victorian age when the factories wanted them to start early so they could finish early and get working on the production line sooner.

Only Wales, Scotland and the Netherlands start children off at school so early, it noted. 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 government disagrees.  “A school starting age of six would be completely counter-productive,” says Schools Minister Vernon Coaker. “We want to make sure children are playing and learning from an early age and to give parents the choice for their child to start in the September following their fourth birthday. ”

What do you think? Is five too young?


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My daughter loved school last year at age 5, when 80% of the timetable was devoted to learning through play. Although, in practice, I think my daughter found that it was more like 100% play, and the facilities were very good.Now she’s six, there seems to already be a little too much emphasis on academic learning.I personally think that learning through play & life-experiences is incredibly important, and totally disagree with our local education authority’s heavy-handed crackdown on parents taking kids out of school during term time. Particularly at a young age, going out places and doing interesting things is a far more valuable education than sitting at a school desk.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

The trouble with the UK trying to copy Europe is that many of our parents are utterly unfit for parenting, and consequently their children are far better off out of their hands and in school. I started at school at 4 like most of my generation, in the early sixties, and remember enjoying it very much. Though it was not predominantly play, it was enjoyable learning from teachers who knew how to interest small children. Whatever system we employ we should not lose sight of the fact that learning can be fun, that in many ways children enjoy it as much as play (you can play at home), and that it’s one of a human being’s most natural instincts, from birth.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Matthew – nail & head springs to mind.The level of behaviour in many young children is so bad because the parents have never been bothered to control them, let alone teach them the basics. By the time you are school age, you shgould know letters and numbers as well as how to write simple words and your name. Too many parents can’t be bothered to teach their children this and it hinders learning. There needs to be minimum standards reached throughout a child’s progression in the schooling sstem or you are condemning that child to a lifetime of under-achievement. Starting formal lessons a year later will only make bad parents less likely to bring their kids in to school in the first placeNo system will ever be perfect for everyone – people learn in different ways, but we have to start somewhere and 6 is just too late.

Posted by Adam K | Report as abusive