Should children start primary school older than age five?

Glasgow’s education convenor, Chris Cunningham, has raised the issue, which he said could also have implications for the compulsory leaving age.

Scotland is among the few countries in Europe where children start school at five, sometimes four.

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In an interview with the Glasgow Times, Mr Cunningham spoke about the transition from nursery to primary school.

Glasgow Times:

Most European countries start children later, at age six, while some are later still, at seven.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden have compulsory education starting at seven years old.

Without committing to what is the ideal age, he said instead, ensuring the change to primary school is done right is essential.

Mr Cunningham said: “We have had a move in which we have learning in nursery. It’s not just childcare.”

He asked: “Is P1 an extension of nursery, is it play based learning? We need to get that transition right.

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“Does primary begin at five, six or seven? Some think it should begin later than it does.

“My perspective is, the question that arises is what is the nature of that transition?

“If it is seamless, the age is less of an issue.”

Upstart, is a campaign group calling for the age to be raised and says assessing pupils on literacy and numeracy in P1 is damaging.

Sue Palmer, of the group, said in a paper: “Scotland’s cultural ignorance about child development is almost certainly linked to our early school starting age.

“Scottish children have been starting compulsory education at five for 150 years, so we assume that’s the age they should start learning the three Rs.

“The authors of Curriculum for Excellence tried to change things by creating an ‘Early Level’, covering nursery and P1, which takes a developmental approach until children are six.

“But cultural assumptions die hard, P1 children are in school, so in Scottish minds they should be treated as schoolchildren.

“This was clearly the view of politicians and civil servants when they decided to introduce Scottish National Standardised Assessments in literacy and numeracy.”

If you were to start schooling later it raises the question should the leaving age be increased.

Glasgow Times:

Mr Cunningham said: “Looking further to the future, if you move P1 from age 5 to 6 will they be a year older when they leave in S6. The senior phase of school matters as much as the beginning.

“Do we start later and finish later? The need to sit and pass exams gets in the way of the principles of curriculum of excellence.

“There is a one year dash to higher in 5th year. I have to question if we’ve got these two final years in the right balance.

“We still have a system where the of pupils are going for higher in one year, In S5 and S6 we need to look more carefully.

“My gut instinct is, trying to cram into one year is not a good thing.”