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Better to start later

British children may begin formal education too early. That is one of the conclusions of a report summarising current thinking on early-years teaching, prepared for MPs by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

"There is some evidence that pressuring children to learn about letters or numbers in too formal a manner may be counter-productive," says the report. For example: "forcing handwriting skills upon children before they have the basic co-ordinative powers might be harmful".

Similar sudies have shown that early starters have little advantage in terms of later educational outcomes. The report states that in most countries with a later starting age (six or seven), children may attend high-quality kindergartens from the age of three to develop "intellect rather than knowledge". This equips them with the emotional, social, oral, practical and memory skills which are "prerequisites" for formal literacy and numeracy tuition. To read the report, visit:www.parliament.ukpostreporthtm.

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