Unwise to hold children back

14th January 2011 at 00:00

The widely-reported claims that successful education systems do not begin the formal teaching of reading until children are six or seven is selective and unrepresentative.

In Nordic and some other European countries, school does start at age six or seven, but such children have been in nurseries from much younger years with teaching during this time. Such countries are characterised by much less complex and irregular first languages than English. In France, where the language shares a similar complexity to English, formal teaching in school starts at age four.

Better still to look more widely. In South Korea and Shanghai (which topped the recent Pisa survey on reading scores) and in Hong Kong and Singapore (fourth and fifth in the same survey), learning to read at age four is the norm.

The research supports the earlier start. Children in Clackmannanshire, taught with synthetic phonics at age four, were three-and-a-half years ahead when tested again at age 11. Holding children back when they are able and eager to learn does not seem sensible.

Christopher Jolly, managing director, Jolly Learning Ltd, Chigwell, Essex.

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