ippr on school starting age

13 Dec 2007 by Karl Hallam

Children should start school later, suggests ippr Director, Lisa Harker when commenting on the new Children's Plan. Cadence agree that formal learning should be delayed and play should be taken more seriously when it comes to 4 and 5 year olds.

It is interesting that elsewhere in the Plan that the importance of play has been emphasised, for younger children and teenagers, with extra cash for both play areas and youth provision - Ed Balls clearly 'gets' play and values it, which is very welcome.

The reality is that 4 year olds opportunities to learn through play in schools are all too easily crowded out by the need to get blending those phonics. The announcement elsewhere in the plan of free childcare for disadvantaged 2 year olds could also be interpreted as another step towards an earlier start date for formal education.

Our experience suggests that Lisa Harker is absolutley spot on is when she says "that regimented learning and testing can sow the seeds of disengagement dangerously early". The Plan's emphasis on parental involvement is crucial in combating this danger of disengagement and of course the kids least likely to get parental support are those most at risk ... and hence further embedding of inequality.

Cadence's enterprise work with the inspirational Limeside School in Oldham has also demonstrated to us that this is especially the case with boys. Our view is that once again play and sport has a role to play here too.




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