Some of you may be familiar with Upstart, to others it may sound like something you do to your car to get it going again. Thankfully this blog isn’t about to do a U-turn and become about motoring.
So – to be clear - Upstart is the title of the campaign to introduce a kindergarten stage for children aged three to seven in Scotland.
What do we mean by kindergarten stage? Basically instead of the formal schooling that we are all familiar with from age five, children aged three to seven will have more opportunities to learn through play (especially outdoors); to develop their spoken language and social skills; and to build sound foundations for academic achievement.
Evidence from around the world shows that children under the age of seven benefit from an approach to education that is about experiences, that supports their all-round physical, emotional, social and cognitive development, rather than pushing them towards early academic achievement.
In fact, in the most recent review by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the three most successful nations in terms of academic results were Finland, Estonia and Switzerland. One thing all three have in common? They all have a play-based kindergarten stage for three to seven year-old children.
Such a radical change in how children are educated may seem intimidating, especially if at first glance it seems to postpone academic development. In actuality, the evidence seems to indicate that there is no educational advantage to an early start. Many studies have shown that children who are taught literacy skills from the age of five don’t do any better in the long run than those who start at seven – performance evens out by the time they reach age ten.
Additionally, some research studies have actually linked an early start in formal education and early pressure for academic achievement to social, emotional and mental health problems as children develop into their teens and adulthood.
People often think of play and work or school as being completely different things, but they are really one and the same. Play combines physical and active learning and if it is properly guided, it can help children develop all the skills they will need to be lifelong learners. Music, art, drama, stories, songs and rhymes develop young children’s listening, language, memory and thinking skills, all needed for good literacy.
Active, creative play develops the problem-solving skills and understanding of concepts and
ideas needed for maths and science.
Our next Parent’s Voice survey is going to be about Upstart – we want to know what our members know about Upstart and how they feel about its ideas. In the meantime while the survey is being developed, here is some more in depth information about Upstart and the arguments around it:
National Foundation for Educational Research – Compulsoryage of starting school in European Countries