Time for a Debate on the School Starting Age

Today 137 Scholars, Head Teachers and Education Specialists wrote an open letter to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, outlining what many home educating parents instinctively know, that the age of 4 is too young to start a formal education.

Published in the Telegraph, the letter begins, “We are deeply concerned about the impact of the government’s early years policies on the health and wellbeing of our youngest children”. These experts argue that the age 4 to 7 is a developmental stage in and of itself, and that the continuing government perception it is for school preparation is damaging to:

  • The child’s later academic achievement
  • The child’s social and developmental wellbeing

The letter goes on to explain that the scientific and anecdoctal evidence suggests a later school starting date would help solve some of the major problems in British schools and thereby in British society. Such problems include:

  • The widening gap in achievement between rich and poor
  • Boys’ literacy
  • The ‘summer-born’ issue

A new campaign has been launched, called Too much, Too Soon, by the Save Childhood Movement. Sadly, Mr Gove’s political deafness to ideas that are not his own led him to make the following comment on the campaign:

“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools.

We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer – a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about ‘self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”


Now I am prepared to admit that I might bleat a bit of pop-psychology from time to time, but accusing 13 Professors and Emeritus Professors, along with numerous other respected academics and educational professionals of doing so,  demonstrates a fairly high level of arrogance.

So Mr Gove, please listen to the experts who are telling you what most homeschooling parents already know: that it is Too Much, Too Soon!

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