Parents back starting-age revolt

21st May 2010 at 01:00
They support nursery head's objection to children beginning school at age four by postponing their offspring's entry to primary

The passionate opposition of a London nursery head to youngsters starting school aged four has won the backing of parents who are postponing their children's entry to local primaries.

The group have opted to keep their summer-born children at Tachbrook Nursery, Westminster, rather than send them to reception soon after they turn four.

Their decision came after Tachbrook's head, Tess Robson, wrote to parents, outlining her objections to the proposed change - by the former Labour Government - to make a September start for all the "preferred" option.

There have been growing concerns about young children in reception classes since former schools secretary Ed Balls pressed ahead with changes to the admissions requirements.

One mother, who did not want to be named, has not applied for a reception place this September, even though her child is eligible. Her daughter will skip reception and go straight into Year 1 next year.

"I can't see why I would not want to keep my child somewhere with wonderful facilities and dedicated staff," she said. "The reception classes I've seen have not been able to offer anything better.

"I have looked at schools and didn't have a clear favourite. I'm a fairly relaxed mum and I expect I may have to supplement her reading, but I would do that anyway."

From 2011, children are expected to start school in the September after they turn four, but can start later if parents wish to.

The reforms were part of the review of the primary curriculum by Sir Jim Rose and were driven by a desire to give choice to parents where schools or local authorities would not allow admission to younger children in September.

But the change has caused an outcry among early-years experts, who doubt that reception classes, despite having the same curriculum as nurseries, are as suitable for some young children.

Ms Robson said: "My reasons aren't drawn from my personal preferences or whims. They are backed up by research into children's development and pedagogy. A single point of entry means the youngest child could be four years and one day.

"The curriculum in nursery and reception is supposed to be the same, but in practice there is a vast difference. Many reception classes don't have easy all-day access to an open area and they may have a ratio of 30 children to two adults."

She said five parents had decided to keep their children back.

Westminster Council said it had not received applications from 273 of the 1,416 residents with children of reception age, but stressed that this could be for a variety of reasons, including moving house, sending children to another borough or paying for private education.

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