What is the best age to send a child to school?

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IT HAS been claimed that a significant number of parents in Angus are delaying sending their children to first year at primary school.

Instead, where it is still legally possible to do, they are holding them back for an extra year at nursery.

In Angus, a child has to start school on the first official entry date after the fifth birthday.

Alternatively, if the fifth birthday is on or before the last day in February, they can start school the previous August when they will be approximately four-and-a-half years old.

Mr Richard Stiff, Angus Council’s chief executive, has pointed out the increasing number of delayed starters to the equal opportunities committee of the Scottish Parliament, which is conducting an inquiry.

He has revealed that the authority is actively monitoring the situation. His belief is that it is not necessarily good for the children concerned. However, there is an opposing point of view because in many European countries primary schooling starts from the age of six.

And a former headteacher, Sue Palmer, says Scotland should not keep its present policy, but should raise the starting age for formal education to seven. She believes that at five children are too young for formal education.

Ms Palmer, who has written a number of books on literacy and has been involved in TV programmes and software packages on literacy, said: “In a culture where childhood is under constant threat from toxic cocktail of commercial and social factors these parents want to ensure that - at least in the precious early years - their children have the chance to develop as learners naturally, without the downward pressure of tests and targets for achievement.

“The Curriculum for Excellence is a very fine document that makes all the right noises about child development, but Scotland’s competitive target-driven culture means that, from the moment children enter primary one, they embark on an educational rat race.”