A leading English author has urged Scotland to follow Scandinavia's example and hold off on formal learning until children are seven, but to keep clear of education practices adopted in her own country.
Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, argued that A Curric-ulum for Excellence showed Scotland was going in the right direction. Ms Palmer, who used to work as a teacher in Scotland, spoke at "The Kids Are Alright?"
seminar in Glasgow this week attended by MSPs and representatives from the education and voluntary sectors.
She argued that the "real challenge" for Scottish education was to get the early years right, and that the examples of Finland and Sweden should be followed. "They don't begin formal work until children are seven; they get the best results in the world and they have the best literacy rates," she said.
Ms Palmer explained that children in both countries benefited from a highly structured kindergarten and an emphasis on spoken language, and progressed rapidly once formal learning began.
She said Scottish education was in a better position than in England, where she had spent the past 20 years watching the education system "self-destruct".
She praised the aspirations of A Curriculum for Excellence for children to become success-ful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effec-tive contributors.
Ms Palmer suggested that 10-year-olds in England were good at reading tests, but enjoyed reading less than children in other countries. "In England, a successul learner is a child who gains a level four," she said.
A truly successful learner would love learning, read widely and explore and experience things clearly. She added that Scottish education benefited from different attitudes towards teachers.
"One thing I love about your country is you have that respect for the dominie, for the importance of the teacher," she said. "In England, that does not have the same depth and roots."