Offer a year's pre-school education to all

7th March 1997 at 00:00
One of the problems concerning vouchers which has been highlighted yet again (TES, February 21) is the disservice being done to many children in England and Wales whose parents are being encouraged to have them admitted to reception classes which may be totally unsuited to their needs. As was pointed out in Linda Blackburne's article (TES, January 31), it is also having an adverse effect on pre-school provision.

Many parents who realise that their just-four-year-old is not yet ready for the transition to primary education nevertheless feel obliged to present their child for admission in case there is no place available later in the year. Even worse, children who are withheld until they reach statutory age the following year will be pitchforked directly into Year 1 without the benefit of experience in the reception class (Year R).

There is a solution to the problem which so far appears not to have been considered. Research has shown that whereas autumn and spring-born children benefit from three terms in Year R, the majority of the summer-born do not, probably because they are a a whole year younger than the statutory age for admission. Would it not make sense, therefore, to have annual admission to primary education in the autumn term of all those who had their fifth birthday, say from May 1 onwards, together with the autumn and spring-born, who are approaching their fifth birthday in that school year?

Initially, a year's pre-school education should be available to all prior to this, and this could be expanded as money and resources became available. Would this not make more sense and, in the long term, save money which has so often to be spent on remedial education for summer-born children who were probably too young to cope with the demands of primary education?

P E Nicholas Honorary secretary Campaign for Equal Access to Primary Education for All Walkern Stevenage, Hertfordshire

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