This week the head of Ofsted Lady Sally Morgan has caused a stir by suggesting children as young as 2 years old should be enrolled into school. She is particularly targeting children from disadvantaged backgrounds who according to research by Ofsted are 19 months behind their affluent peers when starting school at the age of 5 particularly when it comems to reading and communication.
Now firstly i would like to say i find the idea of children starting school at 2 ridiculous. As the mother of a 2 year old, i cannot imagine him in a school setting and there is no way i would send him. It isn't a childcare setting like a nursery or childminders, it is school a place for education. At the age of 2 children should be going to the park, the library, building towers and be carefree, not stuck in a school setting. I actually think i would find it disturbing to see classes 2 year olds sat doing work like little robots. We already know from various European countries that children do far better when formal schooling starts later.
I will admit that i haven't read into this particular Ofsted research but i do know from previous reading that children from disadvantaged backgrounds often fall behind peers. Of course this isn't true in all cases, but in general this is a group where help is needed, we live in an area where there is alot of social deprivation and i have seen this first hand. In fact perhaps we would fall into the 'disadvantaged' group as we survive on a fairly low income? Who knows. What i do know is that sending toddlers to school isn't the answer.
Lady Morgan says of these children "They're not ready to learn at school. Weak parenting, low educational attainment of parents, poor diet, poor housing and so on."
Surely from that most people would say instead of shoving these kids into school, why not get to the root causes of the issues? Why not make it so people don't have to live off of a poor diet, so they can live in suitable housing, support parents who perhaps need extra help. Sure Start do some excellent work, in our local area there are several centres, i get sent their literature from time to time and they run courses on family cooking, reading with your children and also adult learning courses covering many subjects. The centres are full of lovely books and toys and there are free play sessions for the parents and children. However hundreds of Sure Start centres have been closed or have had to reduce their services in the last couple of years after around 1/3 of its funding was cut by the governement.
The government has said they are making it easier for schools to take children from 2. Children aged 3 are already eligable for 15 hours of free childcare a week(usually in an informal nursery or preschool setting) and some 2 year olds are also eligable for this. One thing that makes me wary of the education system at the moment is that a certain Education Secretary seems very keen on learning by rote and tests, which to my mind are not the most effective methods of learning.
For me, Neil Leitch of The Pre School Learning Alliance summed it up by saying "Social inequality needs to addressed in many ways and taking very young children away from their parents and placing them in formal schooling is not the answer,"
I'd love to know what you all think. Should children be in school from 2?