Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Pat Nicholas (EYF 16)

  1.  In concert with all witnesses and observers at the Early Years—Follow Up Meeting on Wednesday 25 April I have been heartened by the Committee's genuine efforts to improve Early Years provision.

  2.  There is one point, however, which appears to have been overlooked and which I and others believe underpins the under-achievement of many children. The QCA have stipulated that the compulsory starting age for statutory education shall remain as the term after the child's fifth birthday. Consequently children are locked into a system which assesses 5, 6 and 7 year olds as those born in the academic year, from September to August, rather than the calendar year, from January to December. The April to August born have not even had their 5th, 6th or 7th birthday when they face the Standard Assessment Tasks/Tests. This has a knock-back effect on nursery/pre-school provision in that the May-August born can suffer the double disadvantage of being the youngest in their year group and having no statutory entitlement to at least a full two years nursery or pre-school education.

  3.  In Scotland the year group is six months older than in England and parents have the option to delay entry for a year if the child is deemed not to be "ready" for the experience. As you will know the Scottish system is more flexible altogether and perhaps one to which we should aspire in England!

  4.  A paper presented at the Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association, 10-14 September 1997, in York, demonstrates how season of birth and length of schooling affects children's attainment at Key Stage 1. It shows that, to a lesser extent, it can also affect the spring and autumn born.

  I do hope your Committee will give this point serious consideration.

Pat Nicholas

Former teacher of infants in the ILEA

April 2001

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