'Championing the rights of children'

Formal school lessons should start 'above age of five'

Garry Fri 13 Sep 2013 13:55

Children should not start formal school lessons until the age of six or seven, a group of educationalists has said.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, they said early schooling was causing "profound damage" to children.

The experts, including academics and teachers, said there should be more emphasis in the curriculum on learning through play.

A spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Gove said the authors of the letter were "misguided".

'Look to Finland'
The signatories, also including writers and charities, said the current system focused too much on formal education, such as the "three Rs", at too early an age.

They said national policies should be reassessed to make them more similar to education systems in Scandinavia.

The letter said children who entered school at six or seven "consistently achieve better educational results as well as higher levels of wellbeing".

It was signed by 127 experts including Lord Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics; senior lecturer in psychology of education at Cambridge University Dr David Whitebread, and director of Play England Catherine Prisk.

Another of the experts, former Children's Commissioner for England Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said: "If you look at a country like Finland children don't start formal, full-scale education until they are seven.

"These extra few years, in my view, provide a crucial opportunity, when supported by well-trained, well-paid and highly educated staff, for children to be children."

The letter was sent by campaign group the Save Childhood Movement, which will call for changes when it launches its Too Much, Too Soon campaign on Thursday.

Read more... (BBC News - 12 September)