Home education: what, how and why? – a guest post by Jane Levicki

December 6, 2012

Although I’m not a home educator myself, I am very interested in the subject of home education, in dispelling myths, and in raising awareness of home education as an option. So I was very pleased when Jane Levicki agreed to write a guest post for me.

Jane has four children and has been home educating for eleven years. She is the Co-Editor of Education Outside School Magazine,  and blogs at www.manydifferentdrums.blogspot.co.uk

Just over eleven years ago I took my children out of school to home educate them. My son, then aged 8, had never been happy. While he was fine with the social aspect, he often found school boring and frustrating; he had no desire to read, fill in worksheets, or sit still for more than 30 seconds! We struggled through, because I knew no different, but when his sister started showing signs of stress in Year 1 (free play and the dressing up corner is left behind in Reception – Year 1 is serious school!) I knew I had to do something.

I had growing reservations about the school system anyway. I always expected to have to cope with stress in the GCSE years, but I was astounded and disappointed to find I had to do that when they were five! From baseline testing through to SATS it really did seem to be all about box ticking and conforming to the mould.

So I took them out of school and we entered the wonderful world of home education. And I found a new community of people who agreed with me and didn’t think I was mad!

I discovered that disillusion with the education system and unhappy children are a common reason for people to turn to home education and I met former teachers who had come out of the system along with their children! Some had coped with years of bullying. Others had realised that their child’s needs were just not being met, maybe they had Special Educational Needs, ADD, were Gifted, or simply needed to learn differently. The occasional family were home educating for religious reasons. One thing we all had in common was the desire to give back to our children the love of learning they were born with.

I imagine that most people think either that I stand over my children from 9 to 3 each weekday as they sit obediently at the kitchen table filling in workbooks, or that I let them run feral, rolling in the mud, or watching TV all day, while literacy is ignored and career prospects disappear.

Neither of those is true. People do ask me how I get my children to ‘sit down and do their lessons’, but home education doesn’t really work like that. Although some people do create a sort of ‘school at home’ environment if it suits them, that’s not very typical.

Much of their learning has been autonomous. This is an approach where the child directs his own learning, following his own interests while you support him. They learn what they need to when they need to. Some families are totally autonomous and never introduce any structure at all, unless their child asks for it. Many families opt for a blend of autonomy and some direction. This approach works well for us – I encourage as much autonomy as possible, but I also initiate projects and suggest activities.

boy with magnifying glassAnd even when I do, I am able to tailor those to the children. Learning can happen in all kinds of ways. Instead of getting the biology books out, you can go to the zoo or keep animals yourself, take walks and observe nature. Instead of printing out worksheets about money, you can pay your children a weekly allowance, take them shopping and help them open a bank account. Instead of boring reading schemes, you can just enjoy books together. Home education works best when you tap into your children’s aptitudes. I remember great fun pacing out the relative size of the solar system, cooking typical World War II dishes and trying out hieroglyphics!

Even as they enter teenage years, the choice is still there. They can do GCSEs or equivalents or focus more on their practical skills. They can enter sixth form or college or university. But they are not sitting on a conveyor belt, churned out at the end.

The Big Question – Socialisation!

Unless you’re going to keep your child locked in the house forever, they will socialise! Home education is a bit of a misnomer really because usually not much of the education happens at home. They are out and about in the real world – in libraries, shops, cafés, on public transport, in museums, the park; socialising all the time with children, adults and the elderly, shopkeepers, policemen, bus drivers. Sounds a lot more like good preparation for life than years spent with 30 children your own age, plus one adult who must always be obeyed, doesn’t it?

And as for making friends, well of course they do. They make friends with the children in their street and with the guys in their football team, drama club or Scout group. Plus there is a network of home educating communities all across the country organising group trips, activities and social events. In fact, some weeks you’ll have trouble finding them at home at all!

Perhaps best of all, they get to socialise in the way that suits them. My eldest son, now 19, has always been very much a social person. During the summer I would barely see him, he’d be out all day playing football with the other boys in the village. He made friends at his football team, basketball club and Scout group. When he went to college at 18, socialising was never going to be an issue! These days it can take us ages to get around the shops because he keeps bumping into people he knows!

My youngest child is also a social animal. She requires lots of contact with people and sleepovers when possible! My two middle children are much shyer but they have the opportunity to develop their social skills at their own pace. It hasn’t stopped them making friends, communicating with shop keepers, their drama teacher and football manager, or being offered babysitting jobs. In fact, being home educated has enabled them to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem from a secure base, which will see them very well for the future.

You sometimes hear the argument that children need to experience the harshness of life and learn to deal with bullies. Ridiculous! Anyone that has been even slightly bullied will tell you that it doesn’t make you stronger – it grinds you down. In addition, just because a child doesn’t go to school, that doesn’t mean he isn’t facing the ordinary disappointments and difficulties of life. I’ve seen my son cope with spending the entire match on the subs bench at the age of 12, my daughter not win the poetry competition. I’ve witnessed them not get the part they wanted in the play but take it like a professional and give it their best anyway.

I’m not saying that home educating has been a walk in the park. There have been difficult times, as with any aspect of parenting, but even through those I have not regretted it for a minute!

In the UK, education is compulsory, school isn’t. You don’t have to be a teacher or follow the National Curriculum. You don’t need to observe school terms, days or hours. You are not required to be monitored and your children aren’t tested. For more information on the legalities see www.education-otherwise.net

There are many great books about home education, but the one I would recommend as a great introduction is ‘Learning Without School’ by Ross Mountney.


Why classroom behaviour modification methods are on my sad list

September 27, 2012

There are a number of aspects of mainstream education in the UK that I’m not comfortable with. The starting age, the lack of play based learning for under 7s, the lack of outdoor learning, homework for primary school children, reward systems, class sizes, age segregation, the one size fits all approach and if you can’t do it now we’ll just push harder instead of backing off and coming back later. OK, that’s quite a few already.

But what has really got under my skin this week are the reports brought to me by my child, who talks very sparingly about what happens in school, of the happy/sad face chart in his new classroom.

The teacher, I’m told, has a chart on the classroom wall with a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. When a child ‘misbehaves’ she writes their name under the sad face. If they misbehave again they get a tick next to their name. For each tick received they miss five minutes of their playtime. If they are especially ‘good’ they get their name written under the happy face, or moved from the sad face to the happy face.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this type of method of course. There are several variations – traffic lights, sun and cloud, they’re all basically the same thing. So what’s my problem with them?

Well, where do I start?

I get that a classroom teacher needs to keep order in the classroom. I do. But is this really the best they can come up with? How exactly is this going to be helpful to a child who is having difficulty meeting the many expectations school heaps upon them?

How is it helpful to be effectively told you are a bad person, and that, furthermore, the fact that you are a bad person is going to be publicly announced to the entire class – to all other children and staff in the classroom or anyone who might enter the classroom during your time of shame. Why not just give out a dunce’s cap?

What effect is this shaming going to have on your self-esteem? And what effect is low self-esteem going to have on your behaviour? Bingo. It’s going to make it worse. It’s quite possibly one of the causes of the ‘bad’ behaviour in the first place.

How is missing some or all of your playtime – a precious opportunity to do what you desperately need to be doing; getting outside and playing and letting off some steam – going to help your future behaviour? And how might you feel during that missed playtime? Positive, ready to make a real effort, feeling able to fit in, school’s a good place? Or resentful, bad, ashamed, school sucks?

My child highlighted another problem with all this when he told me, “Jimmy’s always on the sad face, he’s really naughty.”

Great. Jimmy is labelled, categorised. How is this going to help Jimmy? Will it make him more or less likely to make some solid peer connections that will have a positive effect on his behaviour? Or will he become ostracised? Will it improve his behaviour? Or will he just give up. After all, he’s always on the sad face, clearly he just can’t do anything right, he’s naughty.

When a child is given a label, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish talk about this in their book, “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk”;

“If you labelled a child as a slow learner, he could begin to see himself as a slow learner. If you saw a child as mischievous, chances are he’d start showing you just how mischievous he could be…..the child who has been given the name begins to play the game. After all, if everyone calls Mary bossy, then that’s what she must be.”

Children behave well when they feel good about themselves and their environment, not when they have a dark cloud hanging over their heads all day long. And the very children that most need help, are the ones likely to end up under that dark cloud every day, giving them just what they don’t need.

Just because so far my child is not the one under the sad face every day, doesn’t mean I’m going to be OK with what’s going on in his classroom, the place he spends a significant part of his time. I chose to put him in a mainstream school so I shouldn’t complain? Actually, other than home education, there was no choice, no alternative school. Yet my child has a right to go to school, and he also, I believe, has a right to be treated better than this. Our children deserve more respect and understanding. And by understanding, as with the title of my blog, I don’t just mean understanding of their behaviour and the underlying needs behind it, but understanding of the negative effects of these superficial behaviour modification techniques. They may ‘work’ for some children (but at what cost?), but they are failing many. Teachers should know better, be better informed.

Oh, and perhaps if we didn’t stuff 30 five-year-olds into a classroom for six hours a day five days a week we wouldn’t need to resort to these methods in the first place.


Starting school without any tears

September 3, 2012

One of the most harrowing experiences known to parents is that of having their screaming child physically torn from them by a stranger, then having to walk away to the sounds of their child crying and begging them not to leave. Just a necessary part of letting go? Teaching your child independence? Or an unnecessary, cruel and detrimental way of managing a delicate situation? I think the latter.

I made the mistake of allowing this to happen once, when my child was two and a half. I vowed I would never allow this to happen again, and have successfully avoided such a situation all but once, when I was taken by surprise one morning at school.

It first happened at a playgroup that clearly didn’t believe in settling in arrangements. They fully bought into the ‘just let them cry it out and they’ll be fine’ philosophy. There were hysterical children and parents everywhere. It was carnage. I subsequently withdrew my child from the playgroup’s register, returning several months later on the pre-agreed condition that I remain with him for as long as I felt he needed me to, even if this meant I never actually left and became a sort of volunteer parent helper with cutting out and sorting coloured pens.  As it happened, I remained with my child for his two mornings a week for about a month. When I finally left there were no tears, nor were there any on any subsequent occasions. He thoroughly enjoyed his time there, being a lively and sociable child who loves being around other children in this type of environment. He just needed time to feel comfortable and safe enough to be there without me. Trying to rush this was counterproductive.

Before making the decision to move him to the pre-school attached to the school he would eventually be attending, I was careful to speak to the staff there about their settling in arrangements. They were happy for me to do whatever I judged best. I planned to stay with him for at least a week, but 3 mornings proved sufficient. There were no tears throughout the year there.

In the summer prior to my child starting school he showed considerable anxiety about the impending change. It was a great comfort to him that I could repeatedly assure him that I would be staying with him for the whole time on his first day. Feeling safe and reassured by the knowledge that I would be there with him considerably lessened the anxiety and stress of the first day. There was no dread of a separation, no need to fear. He knew I would be right there with him. It worked perfectly. I sat in a corner of the classroom with a book. My child joined in with the other children, engaged with the teacher, in short, did everything the other children did and that he was expected to do, just ‘checking in’ with me occasionally.

On the second day I explained to him exactly what would happen when we arrived; “The bell will ring then you’ll all get in line. That’s when we’ll kiss goodbye, then you’ll go into school with the other children, and I’ll be back at lunchtime, just like at nursery”.

This way there were no surprises, he knew what to expect. From his behaviour and reaction on the first day I had made the decision that he was ready for me to leave. As with all the settings he had been to, once the decision was made and I had told him what would happen, it was important that I stuck to it, not letting him feel like there was any choice, any room for negotiation. So making the decision was the tricky part – I needed to be sure he was ready.

This is how it worked for me. It won’t work like this for everyone. Every child is different and will react differently. But I firmly believe that time invested at the beginning saves a lot of tears in the long run, and makes for a much more happy and settled experience for a child, helping develop a positive attitude towards school. The conventional wisdom is to leave quickly, even if your child appears distressed. But as with many aspects of parenting, the conventional wisdom is not something I go along with!

Attachment theory and neuroscience already inform us in no uncertain terms of the detrimental effects of leaving a child aged under three without an attachment figure. But with our early school starting age pushing children into school when they’ve just turned four, and consequently pre-school at three, we need to consider if it’s reasonable to expect a child, at such an age, to be comfortable being left in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar adults and unfamiliar rules and routines. Yes, it’s often simply fear of the unknown. So why not simply stay until the unknown is known?

I get tired of hearing the old story, “They stop crying as soon as you’ve left”. For me, this doesn’t mean they’re OK. It just means they’ve stopped crying. Children can have a myriad of feelings, fears, misgivings, and anxieties without expressing them through crying. What’s the point of expressing them if no-one’s going to listen?

Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., & William J. Pieper, M.D. put this nicely in “The Smart Love Parent”:

“When parents come to pick up their child, they may well be told that the child stopped crying almost immediately and was “fine” the rest of the morning. The flaw in this reasoning is that the child’s behaviour, rather than her feelings, is being used to measure success at separating.”

As with any parenting decision that goes against the traditional majority, we shouldn’t be afraid to stick to our guns, to stick to what we know is best for our children, to trust our instincts. Speak to the staff and explain your position beforehand. Make your child’s school experience start as you want it to go on – happy and stress-free.


Ofsted chief’s answer to low literacy standards; same old tried and failed methods.

March 16, 2012

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s answer to the poor literacy standards in our country’s schools brings to my mind an image of a man repeatedly trying to force a door open without taking the trouble to find out what’s stopping it from opening in the first place. Not only that, but there are other people all around him who have managed to open similar doors, and people who have taken the time to look into why the door won’t open, and are offering advice. Yet, he just ignores them all and keeps on forcing. More force must be all that’s required.

Hundreds of primary schools are failing to reach the current target. Wilshaw’s answer? – Raise the target. I may be missing something, but I confess I am totally unable to see the logic in this.

A recent Ofsted report finds that since 2008, there has been no overall improvement in primary pupils’ English learning. You would think this would be a clear indication that what we’re doing really isn’t working. Wilshaw’s answer? – More of the same.

“..…if they can’t read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school careers.”, says Wilshaw.

This may be perfectly true of children in the UK state education system, but in other countries, that don’t even start formal literacy learning until age 6 – 7 (ie: the majority of other countries in the rest of Europe!), they seem to be doing just fine. Wait, they’re actually doing much better.  But the government continues to ignore this remarkable anomaly. Presumably because they just can’t understand it.

“Having a strong grasp of literacy needs to start with the youngest pupils”, Wilshaw goes on.

Really?

Not according to the Cambridge Primary Review, which says there is no evidence that an early introduction to formal learning has any benefit, but there are suggestions it can do some harm.  They suggest extending the foundation stage to age 6, and examining the “feasibility of raising the school starting age to six, in line with these changes and international research and practice.”

In a summary of the problems with current arrangements the report finds, “children’s statutory entitlement to a broad and balanced primary curriculum compromised by the national tests and strategies”, “excessive micro-management by government and the national agencies” and “the dislocation of mathematics and, especially, English by the national strategies for numeracy and literacy.”

The final report was published over two years ago. And this is just one report. There’s plenty of other evidence out there to support some major changes. When, oh when, will the government start taking this seriously, and give up trying to force that door open?

 

This post was featured on Mumsnet. 


Childcare choices for under 3s – childminder vs. nursery.

July 14, 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst parents that choosing childcare, especially when you are returning to work after having a baby, is, to say the least, difficult.  Whatever you choose will be second best, a compromise, compared to the loving, sensitive and responsive care you can give your own child.

The childminder or nursery question can be a source of endless debate, but I often wonder  if everyone really gives childminders serious consideration, and I feel it’s a shame not to.

Before having a child, I had never considered the possibility of a childminder, I always thought nursery was just ‘the done thing’.  It wasn’t until I was lucky enough, whilst on maternity leave, to discover that one of my neighbours was a childminder and able to introduce me to a whole network of other childminders operating in my area that I started to consider this as a serious option.  Many parents have heard that a childminder may be a better choice than a nursery for babies.  Something to do with being cared for by one person….

Very young children, it has been shown, need the presence of an ‘attachment figure’ in order to feel safe, and for healthy emotional and social development.  Sir Richard Bolwby, President of the Centre for Child Mental Health, sums this up as follows; “Babies and toddlers in daycare can avoid stress and anxiety if they have a secondary attachment figure who always looks after them. In any situation where they are separated from their parents, babies and toddlers younger than 30 months feel safe only when they are with someone else with whom they have an affectionate attachment bond.”  The negative effects of being left for long periods without the presence of such an attachment figure have also been shown.  Furthermore, these effects are more long than short term, and not immediately apparent.  Bowlby goes on to write, “The chronic stress of repeated separations can show as subtle behaviour and mood changes, but these are easily misunderstood and are often interpreted as babies and toddlers settling in and accepting their new surroundings….. it could become a significant risk-factor that increases the likelihood of children developing emotional problems in the future.”

Despite nurseries’ claims that they can provide infants with this essential bond with a trusted carer through ‘key worker’ schemes and low staff/child ratios, the reality is that many nurseries employ very young and inexperienced staff, and have a high staff turnover.  This compared to childminders who are often mothers themselves, may have been childminding for some time and gained considerable experience, and can provide a stable home from home environment, often makes me wonder why so many parents opt for nursery over childminder, especially when costs are very similar.

A common reason I hear is that parents believe that nurseries are in some way more stimulating, more educational, and the best way for their child to learn to socialise with other children.  However, the pressure group “What About The Children” writes, “Pre-schools or nurseries for the under threes where parents leave their children for long periods are of little or no benefit to children’s emotional development, and can be very negative experiences.”

I also wonder if perhaps some parents have a false image of their child sitting in a childminder’s home all day doing nothing, only leaving the house to accompany the childminder on a trip to the supermarket.  “What About The Children” might argue that this would not be such a bad thing as long as the child is getting their attachment needs met; “Very young children need individual attention and love.  They learn good social skills from imitating responsible adults.  It is a myth to claim that being in social groups with other very young children somehow benefits babies.”  In any case, this false image of childminder care is, in my experience, far from the reality.  All the childminders I know have a schedule of activities that they attend everyday of the week, mostly toddler groups, but also local parks, farms, museums and other children’s activities, where the children will receive the stimulation and learning opportunities that they would in a nursery, along with the benefit of getting out and about to different places instead of being stuck in the same old nursery everyday.  The childminder will also have other children that they care for, and their homes are typically well equipped with a range of stimulating activities, rather like a mini nursery.  In addition your child may benefit from the experience of mixing with older children for a short time each day if the childminder collects their own and/or other children after school.

One other objection I hear from parents when considering the childminder/nursery issue is a concern for their child’s safety.  Firstly, they feel their child is safer when confined to a nursery building & grounds, rather than being taken out and about.  This is understandable – it’s a scary thing trusting the care of your child to someone else.  But is it really well founded?  I doubt if there has been any research that shows a higher death or accident rate for child-minded children compared to children in private nurseries. Secondly, they feel uncomfortable putting all their trust in one person.  Choosing childcare is of course a very personal thing, but if you’re lucky enough to find a childminder you’re happy and comfortable with, it could have been well worth the search.

There is of course the convenience factor.  Childminders go on holiday, get sick, and might not work as long hours as a nursery is open. Everyone has different degrees of flexibility in their working arrangements and childminders just might not work for some.

I am not saying all childminders are good any more than I am saying all nurseries are bad.  I just want to expel some common myths, share my own thoughts, and perhaps encourage parents to give more thought to both options.

 

This article from Nursery World may be of interest.

Also, an article from Annelize Cruz of Free Range Childcare.


Settling in to childcare

June 19, 2011

I have recently expressed some concern to other parents about what I consider to be rather inadequate settling in arrangements at my child’s new school.  At the time I was slightly surprised by their reaction – one of total unconcern, trust in the school’s system, and attitude of getting it over and done with as quickly as possible, but in hindsight this doesn’t surprise me at all.

It recalls the time when I  attempted to start my child at a playgroup that took 2 1/2 year olds. The settling in arrangements were non-existent;  the intake was not staggered either in terms of starting days or times, and the parents were not encouraged to stay with their child, in fact they were encouraged and advised to leave immediately.  This was following just one visit for each child with their parent to the playgroup which had taken place three months prior to their starting date.  Yet, to my knowledge, every single parent went along with this, trusting to the assumed higher wisdom and experience of the playgroup staff, and ignoring all their own parental instincts, dismissing these, in line with the attitude of the staff, as just unfounded concerns of over-anxious parents finding it hard to let go for the first time.

This approach somewhat ignores the substantial body of research and evidence out there that suggests that young children, particularly under 3s, need access to an attachment figure in order to feel safe and secure.  Clearly no such attachment figure is present when a child is separated from their parent and left in an unfamiliar environment with a bunch of strangers.  Richard Bowlby, President of the Centre for Child Mental Health writes in his article, Stress in Daycare;  “Being unable to access an attachment figure during non-parental daycare can result in babies and toddlers experiencing stress and elevated cortisol levels”.  Again, a substantial body of research and evidence has shown the long lasting negative effects of abnormal levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, on a young child’s brain development.

The argument I repeatedly hear from people who work in childcare settings is that the child stops crying once the parent is gone.  This, many seem to believe, shows that the child was only pretending to be upset in a manipulative attempt to prevent the parent from leaving.  Not so.  Whilst it is quite normal and healthy for a child to express some sadness at parting from the parent, then move on once the parting is over, this does not make it OK to leave a child with a stranger.  The child may stop crying once the parent has gone, but this does not necessarily mean they’re OK.  It is more likely that, with no attachment figure present, they no longer feel safe enough to express their feelings, so they suppress them, to burst back out once the parent returns – parents often report difficult and challenging behaviour on collecting their child from childcare.  The problem here is that all the time the child is in this situation, hiding their feelings of fear, insecurity, and anxiety, their cortisol levels are going sky-high.  Furthermore, this type of approach will do nothing to help the child feel secure and happy on subsequent visits to the childcare setting, but only increase their resistance against such an experience, and prolong their feelings of stress and upset.  Things may be ‘over and done with’ quicker for the parent, but not for the child.  Yes, the child will settle eventually, but is this really the best way for them?

If parents just took the time to make more visits or stay with their child until they have become familiar with the environment and the people in it,  it would be so much less stressful for the child,  and so much better for their relationship with their child.  Furthermore, this investment at the beginning may seem more time-consuming and ‘drawn out’, but in fact will result in fewer tears (from both parent and child!) and a quicker settling in overall.  Yes, all children are different, and some children will settle much quicker than others.  The parent, as ever, is the best judge of this.  Don’t just ‘go with the flow’ – that is the pressure from other parents, and from childcare workers.  Read the facts on attachment, and trust your own instincts.


Starting school before the rest of Europe – a head start or a pressured start?

June 9, 2011

My 4-year-old is due to start school this September.  The idea fills me with dread.  The idea of other adults spending more time than I can with my child when he is still so young, along with all the pressure that comes with the expectations regarding his behaviour and abilities is something I am having serious difficulty with.  My child’s nursery often report to me on my child’s inability to sit still during ‘carpet time’. – Well, that would be because he’s a 4-year-old boy.  So why do we expect him to?  Why try to force him to do something he’s clearly not ready to do?  At an information evening for new parents last night we were urged to ensure our children can cope with their own zips, buttons, toilet visits etc.  So the pressure begins now, at home.

So, why do we start our children at school so early in this country?

In a Primary Review Research Briefing, researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research conclude, “There is little evidence to support common-sense assumptions that spending longer in primary schools …results in higher attainment.”

The majority of other European Countries have a school starting age of six.  Yet reports show that children in these countries do just as well, and usually better, than UK children.  Surely this fact alone speaks for itself?  One argument put forward in the UK is that starting children at a younger age creates a level playing field for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but the research doesn’t qualify this argument.  If anything it shows that the gap in attainment between disadvantaged and more advantaged children only continues to grow through their school years.

Another, more believable theory, put forward in the Cambridge Primary Review, is that there are historical reasons for the young starting age that are more to do with the convenience to our society than any benefit to the children.   This seems plausible given that most parents I speak to simply think of school in terms of a reduction in their childcare costs, and never stop to question the wisdom of packing our children off to school so early.

But then, why question the wisdom when really you have no choice in the matter?  Any supposed choices we have are fraught with problems.  Legally, children in the UK do not have to attend full-time school until the term after they turn five.  This means summer born children, often a concern as being disadvantaged as the younger in their school year, can legally be held back a year if their parents so choose.  However, the few people who actually look into this option will find that this would mean that when their child starts school they would go straight into year 1, simply missing the reception year, and being forced to mix as the newcomer in an already established class of children.

Another little known option is that of sending your child to school part-time until they reach the legal age, an option I am considering for my January born child as a way of keeping him out of full-time school for a little longer; until after next Easter. Yet again, as I am fairly certain I will be the only parent availing myself of this option, this raises various concerns around singling my child out, making him feel different, and disrupting his ability to fit in with his peer groups.

Many parents try to reassure me, and perhaps themselves, speaking of their child’s love of being with other children in a stimulating environment.  Yet my child is being provided with all this now, for an appropriate 3 hours a day in an appropriate environment – pre-school.  I have yet to read or hear a convincing argument to suggest that he is ready to enter a more formal learning environment for more than double the number of hours per week.  Every instinct I have is telling me he is not ready.

It’s time the government starting taking the reports, research and evidence seriously and started looking at the more successful educational systems in other European countries.