All over the UK’s news today is a report into our primary school (age 4 – 7) education. One of the areas being discussed is what age children should start school. In the UK it is normally aged four and mandatory by age five. Some other countries don’t require it until aged seven.
School starting age may impact on educational problems such as dyslexia and ADHD if these are caused by a neurological underdevelopment. The early start to school may exaggerate the difference between those children who’s development is equal or greater than average and those who are below average. With the under-developed children immediately falling behind, their better developed peers and once behind they may never catch up. The argument for a later school starting age is that by seven there is a lot less variation in neurological development (at least relating to basic skills such speaking, listening and movement),
The report by the National Foundation for Education Research looked at a variety of research that should children in the UK who are summer born (April to August) do worse than those that are winter born. The obvious answer was that the summer born children got less schooling because they tend to started schooling later. However more detail research found that this wasn’t the issue. The report offers no easy answer why summer-born children do worse.
One interesting nugget the report throws out is that when our starting age was first set, part of the motivation was financial. The sooner the children entered school, the earlier the school leaving age would be, allowing the children to enter the workforce sooner. May be its time we embraced a schooling system more like that of our european neighbors and discard our system that dates back to the time we had children working up chimneys.