School – Too Much, Too Soon, Too Young

With the world finances in such turmoil and uprisings in so many Eastern countries it is easy for important pieces of news to pass us by as happened this week when this headline appeared.

‘School starting age should be raised to six to prevent long-term damage to brighter children’

“Children should not have to start school until they are six to prevent early ‘adultification’”. Dr Richard House says that over-emphasis on the three Rs – reading writing and arithmetic – can actually cause long term damage. The senior lecturer at Roehampton’s University for Therapeutic Education believes that rather than starting school at the current standard age of four or five, those brighter children would do better if they were slowed down. I have been advocating this since the early 1990’s when I first started OFSTED inspections. Watching children who in those days were rising five and thus struggled through the school day it was not rocket science to understand, as did most early years teachers, they were in mainstream school too early.

What was Governments answer? Raise the school starting age? No, it was to bring it down to 4 so we have children who were 4 years old on the 1st September starting school 4/5 days later, a criminal waste of childhood. Consequently we are now reaping the consequences. These children, some years on are disruptive with poor behaviour low concentration skills and lack of interest to learn. In other words burnt out by the age of 8. 

In comparison across Europe legal starting ages are:

FOUR:  Northern Ireland

FIVE:    England but most start the term when they are 4, Malta, Netherlands, Scotland,Wales

SIX:      Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany,Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey

SEVEN: Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden

Dr House said quote “that bright children put into education too early could even suffer life-long negative health effects if they grew up in an ‘intellectually unbalanced way’.”A similar study was carried out in 2009 when Professor Greg Brooks at Sheffield University also said that formal schooling should be started two years later.

So why do we continue to do this to our children? Parents visiting my website over the years have, like me, begged the government not to take away childhood. They have put pressures on all parents to work and so early school is a cheap alternative to freedom – childcare. Shame on us and we think we are a developed society as we watch school results sink to amongst the lowest in the developed world.

Margaret Morrissey