Upstart is a campaign for a nationwide moment to push back the starting age for school in Scotland from 4 or 5 years old to 7 years old to allow time for play and for children to be a child for as long as possible.
Queue the mad panic from parents. But just wait… There are so many benefits it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure and here is why.
The lecture theatre was filled in Dundee – Brenda (the Convener of Upstart) expected around 30 people but with a keen audience of over 330 people turned out it was the biggest launch for Upstart yet.
So why would we want children to start school later?
I have already looked into this in an early blog post available here.
In Scotland, we are keen advocates of learning everything as quickly as we can and we have one of the lowest school starting ages in Scotland with only 12% of countries worldwide having their children start school at 4-5 years old where as 66% of countries have children start school at 6 years old and the remaining 22% of countries have their children start school at 7 years old. An OECD survey shows that the 22% of countries that have their children start school at 7 years old are the countries with the children who tend to do the best academically.
Those countries that start at the age of 7 years old have a play-based kindergarden for 3-7 years old but by the age of 11 years old there is no difference in reading ability and those who start school at 7 years old are in fact keener to learn to read than their peers who started school at 5 years old.
In Finland, they do the least number of hour of schooling in the developed world yet still get the best results. They start school aged 7. They play until the age of 7. They lead healthier lives physically and mentally, they live longer and they are still better academically.
If we are living longer lives as adults, which Brenda quoted could be until 120 years old for this generation, then why are we continuing to decrease the time that a child spends playing?
The idea that children should play until the age of 7 is not a new idea. Sue Palmer, the founder of the Upstart movement and a language and literacy specialist, informed us at the launch that the idea originated from the Greeks.
The benefits of play are extensive. Sue Palmer and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk stated that free play build and influences many areas of our lives: it builds resilience, problem solving skills, social and communication skills, self-regulation, a love of learning. Free play influences creativity, sensory development, emotional experiences, friendships, a child’s thinking ability, motoric development, and the quality of marriage in later life. But the problem? Free play, such as playing in a sandpit, does not look like learning and in Scotland we love to push education.
Prince George at two years old is off to “nursey school” – into school at two years old. But according to the press it is not for the Prince to have a chance to play to develop all of the skills above it is to get him “into lessons” (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Metro). We are too quick these days to put extra pressure onto children by adding the element of schoolification to early education.
The experiences a child has clearly affects the kind of adult you are. The pressure put on children currently has a clear impact on their mental health as children and as adults. In Scotland, there is a real decline of play – due to the school starting age and the development of technology. 2 in 3 children aged between 5 and 16 years old have their own tablets and at least a quarter of children are sent to bed with their tablets. In Scotland, there is also a huge increase in mental health problems and there is a widening achievement gap. How does our First Minister plan to fix this? By putting yet MORE pressure on children and teachers by reintroducing standardise testing – they didn’t work with the old 5-14 curriculum so why are we going back to this idea? Why do we not move forward for a 21st century change? Into a new revolution. A new adventure. An adventure where play and childhood is at the forefront?
Convinced? Follow the national Upstart movement on Facebook here and on twitter @UpstartScot.
Still unsure? Have a look at some more evidence