Pupils at Edinburgh Steiner School start formal learning at age 6 or 7. Why? 

Scotland is an outlier regarding starting school age, with only 12% of the nations worldwide starting school before age 6. All but two are former members of the British Empire. In the year raising the school starting age was debated in Scotland for the first time Edinburgh Steiner School made several short films to add our voice to the debate and help increase awareness of this vital campaign to introduce a Kindergarten stage for all under 7s living in Scotland. 

Inspired by AA Milne’s poem about identity and the search for satisfaction in that identity, a 12-minute documentary of the same name, Now We Are Six, directed by award-winning filmmaker, Saskia Anley-McCallum, explores Scotland’s cultural values behind one of the youngest school starting ages in the world,  getting to grips with the countrywide failure to turn the play-based principles of CfE’s Early Level (ages 3 – 7) into practise over the last decade, and shows a living example of what a Kindergarten stage for under 7s could look like.


Uniquely, since opening the school gates to eight pupils on 5th May 1939, we have run a curriculum that embraces a later start to formal learning; recognising play as being the true work of childhood. Importantly, pupils here transition from Kindergarten to Class 1 at six or seven. Differing from all schools in the Capital in both curriculum and approach, Time To Learn: Class 1 is a 4-minute film providing a window into the busy and unhurried first year of the international Steiner Waldorf school curriculum, beginning in the August after a child’s sixth birthday. It offers P1 and P2 pupils a second chance to embark on a school career embedded in an age-appropriate approach, joining transitioning Kindergarteners in the classroom where subject matter is structured to accord foremost to a child’s feelings and artistic sense in the younger years.

Before then, pupils at Edinburgh Steiner School are in one of our four mixed-ages Kindergartens, learning in an integrated as opposed to subject-based approach through doing and imitation.  Watch our Early Years short film and learn more about our educational approach through our virtual tour.
We hope these three films answer why.