Ahead of their parliament election, the Scottish Greens announced their plan to open a kindergarten program for children under seven. Under this policy, kindergarten teachers would use ”creative play” as an educational means rather than formal learning.
Generally, Scottish children start their formal education between four-and-a-half and five-and-a-half. The Green proposal would seek to start a play-based “kindergarten stage” for those aged from three to six.
The Party believes the approach—inspired by the systems used in Finland and Norway— would help fulfill children and improve their well being as they progress through their academic path.
Finland’s school system has been regarded as one of the world’s most successful. For the past two decades the country had top performance scores in the OECD’s international PISA tests, which measures children’s academic knowledge and skills.
The approach had been previously proposed in 2018 when the Scottish Liberal Democrats pledged to raise the school starting age to 6 or 7. However, the motion was met with resistance from opposition parties and was therefore not carried.
Thoughout this time, the Greens have had more MSPs than the Liberal Democrats (six vs five) for most of the current Parliament. Therefore, if the Greens conserve their edge after the Holyrood elections in May, they may have a chance to apply their policy and raise the school starting age.
According to the Daily Record, Ross Greer, spokesperson for the Scottish Greens education said: “The pandemic and home learning have shone a light on the importance of children’s wellbeing.“
“As we turn towards the recovery, we should seize the opportunity to leave behind the least effective parts of our education system.“
“We need a play-based kindergarten stage from three to six, drawing on the success of countries whose education and child wellbeing outcomes are far better than Scotland’s.”– Ross Greer, spokesperson for the Scottish Greens
“The UK is an international outlier in how early children start school. Of the handful of countries who share our system, almost all are former British colonies. It’s time Scotland ditched this totally outdated model and did what is best for our children’s future.“
The policy launch follows a report written for Green MSPs last year by Professor Mark Priestley and Dr Kylie Bradfield.
Sue Palmer, the chair of the Upstart Scotland, which campaigns for the launch of a play-based kindergarden stage, said: “Now that Scottish children have fully-funded entitlement to early learning and care from the age of three, it would be fairly easy to raise the starting age for formal schooling to the year children turn seven and provide developmentally-appropriate education for three to seven-year-olds, as they do in successful Nordic countries.” reported the Scotsman.
As for the Scottish Government, a spokesman said in a statement: “Scotland’s curriculum is already rooted in play for the early years, with a strong focus on ensuring all children benefit from rich outdoor learning experiences. We have no plans to change the school starting age.“