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Laying the foundation for more disaffection

So English children perform less well than their continental counterparts ". . . despite having been at school 18 months longer" (TES, January 19). Could we gain a new and important insight into the reason for our children's underachievement if that much-repeated comment was reversed? Should it read ". . . because English children start formal schooling 18 months earlier"?

It seems a very powerful and significant difference that has received little examination. The original reason for children starting formal education in this country at five was a combination of chance and politics, based neither on educational insight or theory.

Maybe other countries have had the wisdom to recognise that starting extensive formal and written maths is not only inappropriate but counterproductive for children under 7. Some of the demands of the present national curriculum in maths, plus the accompanying standard assessment tasks, for children aged five to seven, would seem set to perpetuate our problems.

Are we laying an even surer foundation for further disaffection - a disaffection that is already the subject of much concern in the later years of schooling?

ANNABELLE DIXON 82 Duncombe Road Bengeo, Hertfordshire

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