Scottish parents, we have some potentially important information for you...
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is looking at altering the compulsory age at which children start formal schooling to six years old. Children will attend a statutory play-based 'kindergarten stage' from three until six. Currently, most children in Scotland start school full-time in the first August after their fourth birthday (rather than September like England and Wales), but can opt to start at five which is the compulsory school age.
What will happen if this change goes ahead?
In the instance that this proposal is passed, Scotland will align with protocols of other countries in Europe; Germany, Italy, Spain and the Republic of Ireland are just some examples of countries where children start school at six rather than younger. We also spotted that Estonia, Sweden, Poland, Finland and Denmark don't start formal education until they are seven, so this is definitely not seen as a 'strange' thing on the whole in Europe!
The proposal was submitted by SNP policy development convenor Toni Giugliano and it prioritises play-based learning as well as emphasising the importance of learning through play for younger children. The proposal motion read;
'Active, social play is children’s natural learning drive and helps develop physical fitness, social skills, cognitive capacities and personal qualities such as creativity, problem solving, self-regulation and emotional resilience.'
In addition, the proposal also mentioned the Pisa rankings (Programme for International Student Assessment) and how pupils who start school later in Europe actually score higher on the Pisa rankings! On the most recent Pisa scores, it turns out that Scotland scored the lowest ranking to date in maths and science, falling behind England and Northern Ireland.
'Raising the school starting age is a genuinely progressive &potentially game-changing idea...— Upstart Scotland (@UpstartScot) July 27, 2022
Our current approach is out of date &out of step with the world's top-performing education system and our kids deserve better'Thanks @MrMcEnaney!@ToniGiugliano https://t.co/59POlbygQv
It isn't just the SNP who are proposing this change - other political parties in Scotland are also in favour children starting school at an older age; the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have all publicly stated similar wishes in their manifestos. Nicola Sturgeon also made promises to make headway on closing the attainment gap at the start of her first term as First Minister, so this will be a step in that direction.
James McEnaner, who is the author of 'Class Rules: the Truth about Scottish Schools' and lecturer, has stated that this new policy could be “potentially game-changing” and told The Scotsman;
"Raising the school starting age is a genuinely progressive and potentially game-changing idea, and one that already enjoys widespread support across political divides and broader society. Our current approach is out of date and out of step with the world's top-performing education system and our kids deserve better.
We must be clear, however, that this change hinges on something much more challenging, which is the complete transformation of Scotland's early years sector. This means ending the current patchwork of provision and providing a truly national service that, like schools, should be free at the point of use.
If the SNP membership has the courage to back this, then they should be applauded, and the party leadership should make it an absolute priority"
Will the motion be passed? The SNP’s conference committee have the final say on whether it can be added to the conference agenda and once we know more, we'll update you all!
Given the tangible data supporting the proposal for children in Scotland to start formal schooling at six, with more time spent on play-based learning, we think that this proposal definitely has potential to help children emotionally and academically. We will be keeping a close eye on the news and feeding back any updates to you mummies and daddies based in Scotland!
Also, we're now left wondering, will England and Wales follow suit?
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