Thanks to James Thayer for the link

From BBC, Friday October 16, 2009:

Children should not start formal learning until they are six, a review of primary education in England says.

Instead the kind of play-based learning featured in nurseries and reception classes should go on for another year, the Cambridge Primary Review says.

There is no evidence that an early introduction to formal learning has any benefit, the review says, but there are suggestions it can do some harm.

Ministers say a starting age of six would be completely counter-productive.

Most children start primary school in England aged four, and a large proportion are taking advantage of free, part-time pre-school places in local schools and privately-run nurseries from the age of three.

Too much too young?

The kind of learning that goes on there follows the government’s “Early Years Foundation Stage”, which currently runs to the age of five and is a play-based curriculum which includes some early literacy and numeracy goals.

Five years old: England, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands
Six years old: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark (6-7), France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden (6-7)
Seven years old: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania
Source: Eurydice

Continuing this informal but structured learning for a year or so would bring children in England in line with many European countries, where school starts at six or even seven, and standards are often higher.

A similar step has already been taken in Wales and Northern Ireland where a play-focussed curriculum has been extended to the end of Key Stage 1, when children are aged seven. But Scotland follows the English model. “This would give sufficient time for children to establish positive attitudes to learning and begin to develop the language and study skills which are essential to their later progress,” says the review, which is based on six years of academic work.

It stops short of calling for the age of compulsory schooling to be put back to age six, but does call for an open debate on the subject. (read full here)