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Nine in 10 oppose admission at four

The admission of four-year-olds into schools may require special arrangements, particularly at playtimes, according to research conducted by the Centre for Educational Research at the London School of Economics.

Many local authorities now offer school places to children before the term in which they are five, partly because of concerns about the disadvantages to summer-born children of having a shorter period in infant reception classes. But research by Hazel Pennell and Anne West in the London borough of Tower Hamlets suggests parents are happier than heads and teachers with the switch to earlier admission.

Nursery heads and teachers were most opposed to the policy - nearly nine out of 10 who responded to the survey thought early entry to primary school was generally a bad idea.

The researchers say nursery staff seemed to believe the new policy undermined nursery education, and they recommend that Tower Hamlets should reassure staff.

Parents were happy with the education their children received in primary reception. About 90 per cent considered their children ready to start school and most agreed with the policy change.

For nursery teachers, the main problem was the larger number of children to settle in September and January. It was also considered that younger children needed more adult help and supervision.

In primaries, some teachers thought that young children were not ready to be part of a class of 25 and some could not cope with the more formal work. There was also a view that younger pupils miss out on valuable time in the nursery.

The research recommends that special arrangements at playtime should be made for younger pupils and that Tower Hamlets should consider making the system more flexible so that parents had more choice about when their children started in primary schools.

* Evaluation of the new early-years admission policy in Tower Hamlets by Hazel Pennell and Anne West at the Centre for Educational Research, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.

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