Is it me or are they getting younger these days? No I’m not talking about the teachers but school children if the idea floated by Ofsted comes to fruition.
They have been doing a bit of good old fashioned kite flying. Some wise policy wonk in a darkened room deep in London has come up with the idea that children should start school at the age of two. Yes that’s right – aged two.
We’re in danger of losing out in the competition stakes they argue and need to get kids learning when they can barely walk and talk.
It seems that learning now is all about a production line: trying to hothouse children, pushing them harder and harder from an early age. As we slip down the international league table for educational performance the answer, the Government would have us believe, is to get them through the school gates earlier.
Aged two kids just want to play and they need to play. Surely we can’t be serious about parachuting them into a classroom environment – presumably sticking them in front of iPads.
Travel north east to Finland or Sweden or east to Germany and kids don’t start school till they are six or seven. Yes they learn through nurseries and outside the ‘classroom’ but there isn’t the pressure put on them at such a young age.
The mother of a German friend of ours, who used to be a teacher, is horrified about how we teach our children from such a young age. Germany and Scandinavia do pretty well in the learning league tables and yet their kids start formal education 2 or 3 years later than in the UK.
Informal learning for young kids is a good thing and needs to be an essential part of the mix. They learn loads from imaginative play and having the space and time to draw, make and create. Spending time outdoors is also really important for their personal development: there is something special about ‘unstructured’ play in a wood or a green space where children find their feet. They discover, collect and try out new things.
We need to get the nature of learning right for children allowing them with the support of parents and teachers to grow and flourish. But without loading too much on them when they’re so young.