Edinburgh Steiner School

Starting School Later

At Steiner schools, literacy and numeracy is introduced later than at most schools in the UK. Instead, the holistic education offered in the Kindergarten helps pupils to learn vital attributes, including speech and listening skills as well as social and emotional skills. Important physical developments are also supported, including the capacity to dress themselves, tie shoelaces and climb trees.

This additional time in Kindergarten ensures that our pupils are confident and ready for their transition to the Lower School after their sixth birthday.

In other schools in the UK, formal education begins as young as 4 years which is several years before most Western European countries. In Sweden, Denmark and Finland, for example, 7 years is the norm.

The publication of the Cambridge Primary Review (in England) recently raised significant doubts about the merits of starting school early with the report concluding: The assumption that an early starting age is beneficial for children's later attainment is not well supported in the research and therefore remains open to question.

Primary starting age has not been reviewed since its introduction in 1870. The Victorian education system was designed to protect and support vulnerable children who would otherwise be out on the streets or in poor home conditions. Equally, MPs of the time were attempting to appease employers who required a ready supply of juvenile workers. A suitably early start enabled young people to complete their education at a tender age and enter the world of work.

Over 130 years later, British school children spend the least time with their family, attending full time education up to three years earlier than in Scandinavia while spending the shortest time on holiday in the EU.

Comparisons with other European countries, including top performer Finland, reveal that hours in the classroom do not equate to educational achievement. In fact, Finland boasts the lowest classroom hours with pupils starting at seven and spending 11 weeks on holiday each summer.