Education & Family

School starting age: Your comments

Colouring pencils at a nursery
Image caption The age at which children should start formal schooling has been widely debated

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

The Save Childhood Movement has called for the changes as it launches its Too Much, Too Soon campaign.

So, what is the best age to start school? Here, teachers and parents give their opinions on the subject.

Nancy Newton, teaches in London

"At last a sensible observation that actually takes into account child development.

Having taught in both systems in South Africa and now in the UK, I can confidently say that the young age at which children start formal schooling, together with what the powers-that-be expect them to achieve, is a recipe for disaster.

State education in the UK will continue to fail the children, irrespective of how rigorous Ofsted inspections become.

The failure arises from the fact that there is little or no understanding of how children develop.

Age does matter. I've seen too many children struggle. While many meet the Sats targets in year 6 because of intensive drilling, what knowledge, skills, understanding are they actually leaving primary school with?"

Clare Davidson, Lancaster

"My daughter has just started primary school. She won't be five until April but is more than ready to move up a gear from pre-school.

She already has a grasp of literacy and numeracy, has a voracious appetite for finding out about the world around her, she can tell you what makes rainbows and thunder and about the relationship between bees and flowers, for example. In short, she was getting bored in pre-school.

The other side of this issue is the rising cost of childcare. Who is going to fund children remaining in childcare if they don't start school for another two years?

Her primary school, like every other I've come across, has a big focus on learning through play in the reception class.

Formal learning is only done in very short bursts, with play to further their learning forming the main bulk of the day."

Craig Quirk, Blackburn

"As the parent of a five-year-old boy in his second year of school I have to agree with the Save Childhood Movement group.

He comes home from school sometimes almost bewildered and then has to face homework. At five, I find up until now that anything I want to teach him is always successful if done via play.

There is far too much emphasis at school on formal learning which at his tender age goes way over his head.

I am all for putting in the effort to learn something but it makes me desperately sad that children are not allowed to be children these days."

Hilary Judge, Croydon

"I think that children should start school at three years old, rather than five.

My son Robert started at nursery school at two and a half and could read, write and understand mathematics well before he was five.

He enjoyed nursery school immensely and had a thirst for learning whilst he was there but was so advanced when he started at primary school that he became bored.

The problem nowadays is that parents don't speak to their children and provide stimulus - their children will gain this at school.

This would just be another two years of television for some children."

Meg Clarke, Tamworth

"We removed our children from state schooling and commenced their home education precisely because of this issue.

Our youngest of four turned four only two weeks before the start of term and he was physically and mentally shattered by the school system.

We knew he was not ready for formal schooling but our pleas to delay his entry into reception were greeted by staff with airy denials of any foreseeable problems.

We had a hellish year as we had to drag our little child screaming, every day into class and he was always asleep on the bus on the way home.

We know our own children and we should definitely have a choice as to when they start their formal education.

Our youngest is now studying A-Levels in geography, chemistry and business studies at a sixth form college so we must have done something right."