Should children not start formal education until they are six years old?

Children in other parts of the world, such as Scandinavia, do not start formal education until aged six or seven and the emphasis until this age is firmly on play. Should the UK adopt this approach to our children’s education?

  1. 66% said Yes, children should be able to play more and the EYFS should be extended to seven year olds.
  2. 9% said No, it doesn’t necessarily improve academic performance in the secondary phase.
  3. 25% said Maybe, some children are ready for school from an earlier age.


Pat Betts said on 20 March 2011

ECAT very important and the more play centered/ socialising activities we can provide are a must for developing confident young people with the communication and language skills neccessary to progress effectively in more formal education.

Anonymous said on 20 March 2011

I have been saying this for years! Policy makers who do not regularly work with young children may be forgiven for thinking that, like some skills, the earlier you start practising the sooner you will be good at it. But they just don't realise that learning formal skills is not the same. It is true that some children are ready at 5 or even 4, but for those who are not, they just learn what they can't do and can become demoralised before they even start. EYFS until end of KS1!!!!!

Anonymous said on 20 March 2011

I believe that the child led curriculum is paramount. My own daughter at 6yrs 7months has a wonderful imagination and can discuss in depth on many subjects, however she struggles with writing and so "does not enjoy school". As a teacher though I see many children at 5 years who love to write and enjoy being able to write their thoughts and stories for themselves!!

Alicia Kilner said on 18 March 2011

yeah some children are ready to go to school at an earlier age, you have to be prepared for your children and let them follow in your footsteps. let them get a more education. x

Janet Ward. said on 17 March 2011

The emphasis in the EYFS is on following childrens interests which means that if a child is showing an interest in reading and/or writing then that interest can be explored whenever the child is ready.

VSMH said on 17 March 2011

This causes frustration and behaviour issues amongst inquisitive bright young children who are wanting to learn. When parents are providing and encouraging children to use computers and other technology from the age of 2 why is it wrong for them to learn to read and write in a structured way befor they are 6?? Results in classrooms where the emphasis is still on learning are much higher across the primary phase than in those classes where play has been the norm over years FS-2.

Anonymous said on 16 March 2011

if eyfs is extenden to 7 then they should have their own establishment and not be part of primary school

anon said on 16 March 2011

Of course children should be playing and the EYFS should extend to up to the age of 7. Child development theories all highlight that it is not unti the age of 7+ that children are ready for more formal ways of learning. It's a shame the UK hasn't got this yet... so many years behind the continent!!

Anonymous said on 16 March 2011

I have said no as not all parents can afford to keep their child/children nursery council or private.

Vivien Criddle said on 16 March 2011

I'd like to see 6 as standard school entry age but Nurseries offer a wide range of resources from play for most children and children being able to opt into more 'formal' stuff as a choice. Also lots more outdoor play should be featured - including trips to the woods, climbing trees etc My daughter was ready to start school and 4 1/2 and loved it but my son would have benefited from anther year in Nursery - he wasn't ready to be in a formal setting and I am sure this contributed to his dyslexia. Research from Scandinavian countries shows that by 9 children are at the same level or ahead of our children...

anon said on 16 March 2011

Children can still learn a lot through play at any age my son and daughter did not start school until they were 6 one is a doctor and the other an It consultant!

J Mears said on 15 March 2011

Play enables a child to focus on developing all of their Personal Social & Emotional needs, which I believe are vital in the Early Years. These skills enable them to gain the self confidence & self esteem within themselves to be settled and confident enough to accept formal education. If these skills are missing it is very difficult for a child to cope with understanding how to behave, they do not form good relationships with peers and in turn can lead to isolation and a disinterest in learning. I believe focusing on developing these PSED skills by extending the EYFS to 7 years, will enable a child to reach its full potential.

Anonymous said on 15 March 2011

Having lived in the expat community with families from various nations with different views and experiences of education I must say that I think it is a huge benefit for children to learn through play and the EYFS be extended to seven year olds. I found the children from countries such as Scandinavia to have a unique balance, the children retain that childhood innocence longer yet due to spending more time developing social and moral skills at school they at the same time are much more emphatic and mature in their dealings with their peers. What was most interesting was that despite not learning to read until they were six or seven they quickly and easily matched their English peers and this was with English being their second language. The delay had not impacted their literacy skills. They also had a real love for learning, education was fun, they hadn't been bogged down with learning and homework at a young age and this really showed in their attitude. Manners and how they behaved and interacted with peers and adults was fantastic, they certainly had a level of understanding of peoples feelings, respect and manners that I have found quite lacking since our return to the UK.

hannah a said on 14 March 2011

you mean should they follow steiner education

Anonymous said on 13 March 2011

I believe that children should be given the time to discover and explore at their own pace. They should be given the opportunity and space to take risks. Just let them be children and not keep pushing them just to meet Government targets.

J Morley said on 13 March 2011

I recently went to visit a few schools in Hungary; between the age of five and six children are assessed on their `readiness` for formal education, it was great to see children up to the age of seven building dens and learning through play, whereas at the same age our poor seven year olds are preparing for SAT`s!

Anonymous said on 12 March 2011

concerned about the erosion of the original ethos of the foundation stage and equal importance of the 6 areas of learning

anon said on 12 March 2011

Many people seem to miss the point. It's the formal part, which seems to be the problem. There is research that shows children at this age, are physicaly pained to sit still for long periods of time. Children can learn just as effectively through play, if not more so, as opposed to formal delivery.

Anonymous said on 12 March 2011

Unfortunatly, as much as I agree with children staying at home until they are a little bit older, as a teacher I see more and more children coming into school where this is the only place they have routine. Many children are not cared for properly and school is a place of safety and/or stimulation. If it could be guaranteed that children in this country would be looked after and not dumped in front of a TV to keep them quiet, then this would be a great idea.

Anonymous said on 9 March 2011

children are not being allowed to be children, they learn best when they are totally emersed in play THEY have chosen!

Anonymous said on 8 March 2011

I think a balance is needed throughout primary education not just in the early years, and they wonder why so many children switch off when they reach year 3!!

Anonymous said on 8 March 2011

we place far too much emphasis on formal reading and writing to the end that parents think this is all that matters. we should be concentraing on the child as a whole.

Nicola Bannerman said on 8 March 2011

My 1st child started school aged 5 years and 8 months, best thing we did was have her start school approaching 6 years old. Other countries do this, why can't we ? Have a problem now with 2nd child as we want to defer her so that she starts school 5 years and 10 months (due to the fact that in scotland and we only have one intake per year at end of August). Local authority have declined our deferral and therefore we need to figure out what to do now with our daughter for 1 year !

Sophie Raynsford said on 4 March 2011

I am a reception class teacher and I feel that learning through play is not always the same in practise as it is in theory. Due to only having 2 teaching staff to 30 children, many children 'in independent play' are not actually learning what was intended, as teaching staff are busy with other children, particularly in the outdoor area. For example, if I leave a basket of musical instruments outside with a sign saying 'can you make music to sound like a particular animal (for example). If left in independent play, I may walk over to find children are instead using the instruments as guns or as something to scoop up sand with! Is this really how children learn? I believe that teachers should just focus on the basic skills - learning to read and write at at this age instead of all the other areas we are struggling to have available to children.

Anonymous said on 25 February 2011

Nursery age is far too young it institutionalises the children. Formal education should start at 6yrs old.

Anon said on 24 February 2011

I believe that it is absolutely terrible that children are starting in one intake. There seems to be a total lack of understanding that an August born child will not be as advanced as a September born child, in the same year group due to the fact that the younger child is almost a year younger....the older child has had 25% more development time. I'm so disheartened at having to send children that just aren't as prepared as I'd wish into mainstream education that I've decided to retire.

Susan Grant said on 22 February 2011

As a mother of 3 and a teacher I feel that we should adopt the scandinavian approach to education. I've noticed that children who start reading at 6 progress quickly - they are ready. An old Yorkshire teacher once said that she didn't start children reading until they had lost their first tooth.

Anonymous said on 22 February 2011

Children need the chance to be children, they learn so much through play and exploration. They also use these methods to learn how to learn and develop these skills. We push them far too much and expect far too much from them far too soon. It all becomes too full on too soon and does not allow them the chance to gcontinue and develop in all the important areas that the foundation stage focusses on. With the correct grounding they would pick up vital knowledge and understanding much quicker at a later date.

Anonymous said on 22 February 2011

I went to school in Germany and did not start my primary education until I was 6 years old, almost 7. I feel that I was not ready to start formal education until that age and feel that too much is expected of children when they should be having more opportunities to engage in creative play rather than formal education.

Anonymous said on 21 February 2011

I think there is way too much pressure put on young children in our education system- only to be made worse with the introduction of reading tests at aged 6. The role of play and children having the freedom to explore their own interests is not credited with enough importance. I strongly believe that it is when children are engaged in something that fasinates them, that they have discovered themselves where learning really takes place- not what a teacher has chosen to 'teach' them that day, which is probably nothing to do with what children are interested in.

Anonymous said on 21 February 2011

As long as the provision provided meets the children's needs and challenges those that need it. Play should be well planned for and purposeful. Oh and of course FUN!

B Marriott said on 20 February 2011

Lots of learning can occur through a play based curriculum without children having to sit on a carpet for long periods of time.

Anonymous said on 18 February 2011

my daughter is 4 and now waiting to go to school she has told me so many times how bored she is of pre school..