The first in what we hope will be a series of Early Years Scotland ‘Question Time’ sessions was held on Tuesday 20 September in University of Strathclyde.
Run in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the event brought together a panel of experts and an informed and enthusiastic audience from across the early years sector to discuss and debate the question: 'What age should children start school?'
A range of passionately held views and opinions came from the panel and the floor alike, and the session was expertly chaired by former BBC journalist, reporter and producer, Huw Owen.
A summary report on the event by Dr Christine Stephen from the University of Stirling is being compiled and will be published soon, and a film of the session will be made available on Early Years Scotland’s website and YouTube channel.
The panel for ‘What age should children start school?’ was:
- Teresa Ashmead, Head of Curriculum for Early Years and Social Care, Glasgow Clyde College
- Professor Sue Ellis, University of Strathclyde
- Deirdre Grogan, School of Education, University of Strathclyde
- Dr Elizabeth Henderson, early education consultant, lecturer, researcher and writer
- Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
- Anne O’Grady, Head Teacher, Chesters Nursery School, Glasgow
- Linda Reed, Head Teacher, Garnetbank Primary School, Glasgow
Much of the discussion centred on, for example:
- how much can we look to other countries, or should we create our own Scottish solutions
- how much should starting school be about age, or is it more about the individual’s stage of development?
- does it matter if it is called a nursery, a school or a kindergarten…… is it not more about what happens there, rather than what it is called?
- If a kindergarten stage is introduced to Scotland and children don’t need to start school until 7 years, will the existing attainment gap for our most disadvantaged children, be even greater if they don’t attend any provision until they go to school?
- Going from a staff ratio of 1:10 in nursery to 1:25 in primary school is a barrier to providing a less formal, play based curriculum for younger children. Can we increase the staffing ratio in the earlier stages of primary?
There was much debate about all of this with the majority agreeing that our schools currently do not meet the needs of 5 and 6 year old children, but there was considerable disagreement about what should be done.
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