Education MPs have a Blind Spot for School Starting Age

number 7Education Minister Nick Gibb ‘tells schools to copy China‘ in the Daily Mail, demonstrating how readily MPs can isolate single aspects of other countries’ education practices – without uttering one single word about when those children start school (also see former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s high praise of Canadian schools).

Mr Gibb for example, doesn’t appear to espouse China’s school starting age of 6 or 7 nor its primary school pupil-teacher ratio of 16.8 (and 15.5 at secondary school, according to WorldBank Indicator), both of which could be having an impact on learning…

Instead, after researchers ‘found that children in China achieve marks in maths up to 30 per cent higher than English pupils of the same age‘, Mr. Gibb put it down to one thing:

In Shanghai primary schools, whole class teaching with all pupils taking part in question and answer sessions is key to their success. All their pupils are taught the same curriculum and all are expected to reach the same high standard.

I must ask then, since the Education Minister places such high value on ‘all pupils being taught the same curriculum‘, why has his department’s latest School Admissions Code left so many summer born children still facing THE LOSS OF ONE WHOLE YEAR OF THEIR SCHOOL EDUCATION – simply because their parents dare to enrol them in school AT compulsory school age (the term following their 5th birthday), or because they’ve recently moved to England and been told they must join their ‘correct’ chronological year group?

Remember – if a summer born child in England starts school in September at age 5, they can be forced to enter Year 1 against their parents’ wishes, or if they do enter Reception, they can be forced to skip a whole school year later on.

Education Legislation

1996 Education Act – “Duty of parents: “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude,

1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child – “States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;”. It also says, “States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”.

How is the following ‘equal opportunity‘?

At compulsory school age, children born between September 1st and March 31st are guaranteed access to 7 years of primary school education in England; but this guarantee is reduced to just 6 years for children born between April 1st and August 31st – especially since the DfE started describing Year 1 as ‘technically'(!) the start of primary school.

The legislative summer born months account for 40% of the school year and yet the proposed School Admissions Code is not clear, fair and objective for parents who wish their child to start school at CSA – if Year 1 entry is forced upon them, they have no right of appeal.

If parents dare to challenge ‘the norm‘ of England’s age 4 school start, they must take the gamble to apply in the admissions round for their child’s age 5 Reception class place, try to get support from head teachers of schools they are applying to and/or permission from their LEA, and if their request is ultimately denied, their child not only loses a year of education but also very likely any place in the school at all (when Year 1 is full). With an older sibling already in situ, the stakes are even higher.

Suggested MP homework prior to future country comparisons:

Subtraction and Percentage: 7 – 1 = 14% reduction in primary school education
Value Added: Age 4 start versus age 6 [head]start = 1/3 cognitive and developmental difference
Probability & Odds: How many parents will run the gauntlet of an admissions process that still discriminates against CSA summer born children? Fear forces submission and so the age 4 start, poorer summer born outcomes, continues.
Measures & Outcomes: Summer born children already do statistically less well in various peer comparison research, without facing the loss of a whole school year too, and meanwhile numerous educationally well-performing countries offer later and/or flexible school age starts, plus full parental choice without penalty.

Education Ministers all (please), could YOU do the math?

This entry was posted in MEDIA COVERAGE, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Education MPs have a Blind Spot for School Starting Age

  1. Gem says:

    Its crazy how educational decisions have become so politicized. Our childrens welfare should be the only consideration!


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