One of the country's leading scientists has challenged the wisdom of teaching the 3Rs to four-year-olds, urging schools to teach them social skills instead.
Professor Colin Blakemore, the outgoing president of the British Association, also called for a broader sixth-form curriculum, and attacked Britain's further and higher education systems which, he said, are decades out of date.
He told the conference that international evidence does not support a policy of formal teaching and testing in the early years.
"I believe it would be more efficient for such young children to concentrate on 'learning to learn' and on developing group cooperation in problem solving, " he said.
Post-16 education is the area needing greatest reform, argued Professor Blakemore, of Oxford University. The three A-level sixth form course should be replaced with a broader, European-style curriculum, he suggested.
* FE Focus, page 37