Day too long for youngest children

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Research shows that the demands of reception class are making our and five year-olds tired and unhappy. Helen Ward reports

Four-year-olds are struggling to cope with the long school day when they start in reception class, government research shows.

A survey of parents by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found that 46 per cent of children had substantial difficulty on entering reception. The most common problem, reported by more than one in six, was finding the day too long.

Other problems included unhappiness about separating from a parent, finding it hard to make friends or coping with the lunchtime break.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "By 1.30 pm little ones have had it. The majority are not five when they go into reception and they get really tired in the afternoon.

"In nursery they may go all day, but they have a sleep time or a rest. They have more snacks and time to sit down and rest. Reception is more formal.

Four-year-olds need to be in nursery classes, not a school reception class."

The NatCen study looked at the effect of arrangements schools had to welcome children on their ability to settle.

Most schools organised a meeting with the teacher before a child started school and children who had met their teachers were significantly less likely to have had problems making new friends. They also found that children who had met their future classmates were less likely to have problems at lunchtime.

But the researchers found that attending a nursery or nursery class seemed to make no difference to how a child settled in.

They also found no clear link between the age of the child and whether they had problems, pointing out that older children reported more difficulties at lunchtime than younger ones.

The effective provision of pre-school education project which is following 3,000 children through pre-school and into primary, found that going to pre-school was associated with children having better relationships once they started primary school. The impact was particularly important for children at risk of developing special educational needs.

Sixth survey of parents of three and four-year-old children and their use of early-years services. www.dfes.gov.ukresearch

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